This week is National Library Week — and if you have a library card, you can now check out a free pass to over 200 state parks around California.
Through the California State Library Parks Pass program, which launches this week, each of the state's 1,184 public libraries is offering cardholders a limited number of passes to most state parks. Each pass gives a library cardholder free day entry to state parks for one passenger vehicle (with up to nine people) — or one highway-licensed motorcycle. And depending on how your local library is handling the program, you'll be able to keep and use that pass for a certain amount of time before having to return it.
Keep reading to find out how to get your pass, and what you need to know about securing free entry to California's state parks this spring and summer.
Which state parks will accept the California State Library Parks Pass?
The pass is valid for use any day of the week, including holidays (but only if space in the park is available). Still, it's important to note that not every state park in California will accept the California State Library Parks Pass.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation say the pass won't be accepted "at units operated by federal and local government, private agencies or concessionaires." In the Bay Area, for example, Angel Island, Pacifica State Beach and San Bruno Mountain State Park won't accept a California State Library Parks Pass for free entry.
How can I check out a California State Library Parks Pass from my local library?
Each library may have different preferences for how you check out a pass, but your best bet is almost certainly by visiting in person.
Different public libraries have received different numbers of passes, with the minimum being three passes per library — but San Francisco and Oakland say their public libraries are expecting to increase the amount of passes they can offer in late April.
This may mean that if you're not able to snag a pass easily now at the start of the program, don't worry: You may have more luck in a few weeks as the program progresses.
If you have a library card with a public library system that has multiple locations — like in San Francisco or Oakland, for example — the California State Library Parks Passes most likely will be spread out between these locations. Contact your local branch ahead of time to confirm the location of the pass.
Your library gets to decide how many days you can keep a pass, so make sure you know that return date when you check out a pass.
Your library may also allow you to place a hold on a pass, just like you would a book — this is, for example, what the San Francisco Public Library allows for cardholders. You may be able to place a hold on a pass in person at your local library, or online by logging into your library card account. Placing a hold on a pass could be a good way to plan in advance for an upcoming trip where you want to use the free pass.
That'll really depend on your local library — because each library gets to decide how long a pass can be checked out. Both the Oakland and San Francisco public library systems, for example, will be offering their passes as one-week physical items.
Contact your local library to find out how long they're loaning their passes for, and to make sure you return your pass in a timely manner so the next person can enjoy it.
Can I use the pass to enter multiple state parks that accept it?
Yes, you can use it to enter as many eligible state parks as you like during the loan period. This is another reason placing a hold on a pass may be a helpful way to plan ahead for a few days of travel (or a road trip) to enable you to visit multiple state parks.
What's the catch?
Remember that not all state parks are participating in this program, and the passes don’t cover camping fees. The Department of Parks and Recreation also says that the pass won't cover "per-person entry or tour fees (such as museums), boat use, camping, group use or sites, special events, additional/extra vehicle fees, sanitation disposal use or ... supplemental fees."
Also, libraries can decide on the number of days a pass can be checked out, and each library will get a minimum of just three passes to give out. So if your local library doesn't have many passes on offer, and they allow cardholders to keep a pass for several days, you may have to wait for your turn.
In addition, it may take your local public library some time to ramp up with the program. So if the passes aren't immediately available, you might have to be patient about that, too.
What if I don't have a library card?
Getting a library card is fairly simple, and will allow you to access not only a California State Library Parks Pass, but also the full range of your local library's books, media, records and library services like laptop and internet access.
To apply for a library card, you must:
Be a California resident.
Provide a government-issued photo ID such as your valid driver’s license, state ID, passport, consulate ID card or active military ID.
Find your local library near you. You may be able to apply for a library card in person or online — but be sure to check whether the pandemic has changed your local library's opening times if you go in person.
Which California state parks offer free entry with a Library Parks Pass?