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State parks ready for celebration
Residents and visitors wanting to make the best of the coast's early fall weather might consider taking a little history lesson this weekend.

Saturday is National Public Lands Day, when admission to federal parks will be free.

It's also Your State Parks Day in Georgia, a day when the admission cost to state parks and historic sites is waived. The offer does not include Jekyll Island, where the entry fee is $6 per vehicle.

Fort Frederica National Monument, which features a Colonial town that is popular to visitors for its waterfront views and rich history, now has more to offer.

"This is an ideal time for the community to revisit the fort, as we are opening our new Visitor's Center (today)," said Denise Spear, acting park manager.

Through money raised by the Fort Frederica Association and visitor fees, the fort has renovated the center's theater and bookstore and has enhanced exhibits inside the facility.

"We've actually brought out artifacts that have been in storage for many, many years," Spear said. "Now is a good time to come by and get outdoors and see your local parks."

Fort King George in Darien and Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation on U.S. 17 North in Glynn County, both historic sites under the state parks system, will be open at normal times Saturday.

Rangers at both sites say those who want can do more than just look.

"At Hofwyl, it's mainly about volunteerism," said park ranger Bill Giles. "We're going to be out cleaning the nature trail and encourage anyone to come out to help."

The 1800s plantation includes more than 1,200 acres that require upkeep.

"Most parks are low staffed and rely on volunteers just for help," Giles said.

Admission to the plantation house and grounds and trail is also free.

Those who prefer prerevolutionary war history can help plant a garden or clean up the grounds at Fort King George in Darien, says park ranger Jason Baker.

"We have a volunteer opportunity to plant a garden. One of our volunteers died in June, and we're going to plant in her memory," Baker said.

Helping out around the grounds on the day of free admission is a way to connect local visitors with their parks, he said.

"It's a way to make parks their own," Baker said. "It's a way to give back and to take ownership of history and to encourage others to come out."

If you go

Parks with free admission Saturday in Glynn and McIntosh counties include:

* Fort Frederica, on Frederica Road, north St. Simons Island, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, U.S. 17 at the intersection of Ga. 99, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Fort King George, off U.S. 17 in Darien, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; garden planting from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.



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