Sonoma County’s coast, redwood forests, stunning mountain vistas and historic homes and barracks will be free to visit the day after Thanksgiving — but only for those who act fast to take advantage of the inaugural Green Friday promotion.
California State Parks has teamed up with two advocacy groups to offer 13,000 passes good for free admission and parking at 116 of the state’s 279 state parks on Nov. 25. Nearly every state park in Sonoma County is on the list, including the Sonoma Coast State Park, Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve near Guerneville, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen and Sonoma State Historic Park.
The event is the perfect antidote to Thanksgiving gluttony, officials said, and maybe a way to steer the family conversation away from controversial subjects, such as the recent presidential election.
A full list of participating parks is at www.greenfriday.org, which is also the site where people can download and print out passes.
Online distribution began at noon Wednesday and will continue on a first-come, first-served basis based on each park’s capacity. Only one pass is needed per vehicle.
Most state parks in Sonoma County charge between $7 and $8 for parking. Sonoma State Historic Park is the only park included in the Green Friday promotion that charges admission fees of $3 for adults and $2 for children.
The first-ever Green Friday promotion grew out of similar events aimed at getting people outdoors after Thanksgiving. For the second year in a row, retailer REI will be closed Nov. 25 to give 12,000 employees a paid day off. The company has encouraged others to jump on board the #OptOutside campaign.
For Green Friday, Save the Redwoods League and the California State Parks Foundation are splitting the $130,000 cost representing the amount of lost revenue in parking and day-use fees for that day.
The Redwoods League last year doled out 5,000 passes to 48 parks where the majestic trees are a prominent feature. The group is now hoping to make Green Friday an annual event.
“Most importantly, we want to inspire people to reconsider how they spend that special family day,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of the Redwoods League.
Of the 279 sites in the state park system, 171 charge fees. Admission to the others is free. Jack London and Armstrong Redwoods will be offering special events and activities Nov. 25 in addition to the free access for pass-holders.
Organizers are asking the public to share their experiences on social media using the hashtags #GreenFriday and #CAStateParks.
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