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Virginia State Parks are 75

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Summer vacations may be winding down, but late summer into fall offers many opportunities for weekend excursions in Virginia. Our state park system is celebrating 75 years of recreational service and this would be an ideal time to enjoy a picnic, hike, swim or drive in Virginia’s beautiful outdoors.

Take some photos while you are there. The state park system invites submissions of digital photographs during September and October. Photos must have been taken in one of the parks during 2011 and be entered under flora, fauna, seasons, or people and nature categories. Winners will receive cabin and camping packages.

Virginia became the first state in the country to open an entire state park system, on June 15, 1936. From the six parks that comprised the system in 1936, the park system has grown to 35 parks which host more than 8 million visitors today.

The first parks were built by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era program which put many people to work. The CCC-built parks include First Landing at Virginia Beach, Westmoreland near Montross on the Northern Neck, Bear Creek Lake near Cumberland Courthouse,  Holliday Lake in the Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, Pocahontas in Chesterfield County, Twin Lakes in Prince Edward-Gallion State Forest, Fairy Stone near Martinsville, Staunton River near South Boston, Douthat near Clifton Forge, and Hungry Mother near Marion.

Two-thirds of Virginia’s parks include visitor centers to help people learn about the natural and cultural history of the region. Several have carefully restored historic buildings which are open to view. Guests may tour an antebellum mansion at Chippokes Plantation, a 19th century farmhouse at Sky Meadows, or an 1890s Victorian mansion at Southwest Virginia Museum. Leesylvania, Sailor’s Creek Battlefield and Staunton River Battlefield all present Civil War living history programs. Frontier heritage is on view at the authentic 1770s fort at Wilderness Road and at the Shot Tower at New River Trail. All the parks are part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, and offer possibilities to observe wildlife in a variety of habitats.

Virginia State Parks by Sharon B. Ewing is a new book in the Images of America series published by Arcadia. It tells the story of the parks in pictures from the CCC days through the decades of expansion, conservation and recreation.

Smyth County historian Mack Sturgill tells the tales of our nearest state park in Hungry Mother: history and legends.

Stan Cohen, who published the series of Albums of Tazewell County for Tazewell County Historical Society, wrote The Tree Army: a pictorial history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942; this is supplemented by a documentary film which is also available in the library’s collection. Some of the Tazewell County Albums include photos of the CCC camp in Tazewell County. Find images from those albums online on the TCPL website under Local History and Genealogy.

Virginia: a guide to backcountry travel & adventure by James Bannon leads the visitor through every outdoor region of the state, including national forests and parks, state parks, the Appalachian Trail, wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, state forests, and regional and county parks.

A free 24-page brochure is available at the library and at For more about Virginia’s beautiful park system, visit or call 988-2541.

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