When the Indiana Department of Natural Resources says it wants Indiana residents to “check out” state parks this year, the department means it literally.

Beginning this month, library visitors around the state, including those who visit the Greenwood Public Library and the Johnson County Public Library, may check out a pass for free entrance into state parks and state forest recreation areas.

About 240 state park passes have been distributed to libraries around the state, and by handing over a library card, Hoosiers guarantee a free visit to one of the 32 state parks where entrance fees are charged.

The State Park Centennial Annual Pass Library Check-Out Program is a partnership between the state parks and the Indiana State Library designed to encourage people to visit not only parks but libraries, too. The program is part of Indiana’s state park centennial anniversary in 2016.

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The Indiana State Library is helping pay for the parks pass program. Local libraries may purchase additional passes if they wish to have more available to library visitors. Johnson County Public Library hopes to have one for each branch.

While Johnson County doesn’t have a state park, several are located within an easy drive for day trips. Those parks include Brown County, Clifty Falls, Spring Mill, McCormick’s Creek, Turkey Run, Shades, Fort Harrison, Mounds and Versailles. The passes are good for a week, so families could visit more than one park in that time.

The pass will not grant free admission at all state parks and sites. The Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center near Clarksville and Prophetstown State Park near West Lafayette do not accept annual state park passes and will continue to charge an entrance fee.

Librarians hope the program will be especially useful for lower-income residents who might not have been able to afford admission to the state parks.

Ginger Murphy, deputy director of stewardship for Indiana state parks, said, “Our goal is to provide access to our great Indiana state parks for those who may have never visited. We also hope that those who come in to check out the annual pass will take time to explore the services and materials available in Indiana’s libraries.”

The passes are almost certain to be popular. Library patrons already can check out passes to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, and the Johnson County Public Library has 50 people on the waiting list for those.

The program creates a unique synergy and gets Hoosiers literally through the door of two valuable Indiana cultural resources.

So take this opportunity to check out our state parks by checking out a pass from a local library.

At issue

To celebrate the centennial of Indiana’s state parks, Hoosier library patrons can check out a state park pass.

Our point

The program creates a unique synergy and gets Hoosiers literally through the door of two valuable Indiana cultural resources.