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What Is a State Park?

Many state parks, such as those in mountain ranges like the Ozarks or Catskills, have hiking trails.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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A state park is a protected area of land in the United States that is intended to be preserved for its natural beauty, historic points of interest within its borders, and recreation for the public. The purposes and intended uses of a state park is quite similar to that of a national park. The main difference is that a state park is under state jurisdiction while national parks fall under federal administration. In the United States, state parks have been in existence longer than national parks.

There are state parks in all 50 of the United States of America. From Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park in Alaska to Eden Gardens State Park in Florida, from San Angelo State Park in Texas to Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park in Maine, there are parks throughout the country. The parks range a great deal in terms of size and amenities, but they are all intended for the same general purposes.

One of the key purposes of these parks is to offer free or inexpensive access to the outdoors. Many parks offer facilities for family-friendly activities. In addition to having play areas for children that may include swing sets, jungle gyms, and slides, there are also often recreation areas for cookouts and barbecues. These facilities are either free or can be rented for a small charge. Fees collected by start parks are intended to help maintain the grounds and facilities.

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The state park system also provides access to inexpensive or free physical activities. This is especially important in dense urban areas where residents may have a hard time getting enough exercise, especially if they don't have or can't afford a gym membership. Most state parks have hiking trails and walking trails that can be used for exercise. Some state parks also have trails with stations of outdoor fitness equipment that can be used for aerobic exercise and muscle training. There may also be areas where people can play games of soccer, Frisbee®, and other outdoor sports.

A state park is also a good place to use simply for relaxation. Many parks have areas that are cleared for people who want to have a nice picnic, sunbathe, or just enjoy some fresh air. A blanket, a good book, and a sandwich can make for a wonderful and very affordable afternoon, especially if the park is well maintained and has plenty of space for everyone who wants to enjoy it.

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