BUCKFIELD — When Debi Pride and Wally Farnum first visited Reid State Park in Georgetown, it marked the 16th state park or historic site they visited in Maine this summer.

When they return later this week, they will be recognized for visiting the remaining 32 sites in the state as well.

Pride and Farnum, who are engaged to be married, became the first people to complete the Department of Conservation passport by collecting stamps from all 48 state parks and historic sites in Maine. They will be recognized at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Georgetown park, where they will receive the first parks vehicle pass for the 2011 season.

“We have a real competitive streak,” said Pride, a desktop designer who is currently unemployed. “So when we found out we were way ahead of everyone, it became a real challenge.”

The Maine State Parks Passport program began this year in honor of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the state parks system. With the help of 12 partners and sponsors, the Bureau of Parks and Lands division of the Department of Conservation printed up 75,000 free passports for distribution at the parks. The passports include information on the parks, space for notes and an area to place unique ink stamps available at each of the 48 sites.

Awards are available for every eight parks visited, ranging from a sticker to a vehicle season pass upon completion of the entire passport. The program aims to encourage more use of Maine’s parks. That was the case for Pride and Farnum, who usually visit a handful of the same state parks each year.

“I’ve lived in Maine my whole life, and three-quarters of these state parks I’d never been to,” said Farnum, a disabled former minister.

Farnum said the couple picked up their passport after visiting Grafton Notch State Park in Newry over Memorial Day weekend, when the passports became available. They visited the remaining 47 sites over the course of 28 days, following routes they plotted one night during a power outage. Often, they visited multiple parks in one day.

“The ones we liked, we stayed awhile, but the ones we didn’t, we just got the stamp and got out,” Pride said.

She said Reid State Park was one of the more memorable sites. At another, they saw a deer running into the water. She said the staff was also very accommodating, with a park ranger finding them in the parking lot to give them a park patch for the completion of their 16th stamp. The park impressed the couple enough that they returned to visit again later in the summer.

Other sites were more disappointing or difficult to visit. Pride said that at Fort Baldwin in Phippsburg, she and Farnum navigated a narrow road and made a steep climb only to find that the stamp for the site was located at Popham Beach.

Their final trips were to three parks accessible only by water. At Eagle Island in Addison, they shared a boat with a former ambassador to Armenia and his wife. They took their own canoe out to Warren Island State Park in Isleboro to complete the passport.

Pride said one reason the couple made the journey was to save money on the vehicle pass they purchase every year. That became somewhat of a mixed victory because of the cost of gas, access fees for some roads and boats and 2,000 miles of wear and tear on their minivan. But it was worth it for the new experiences, they said.

Farnum said the trips were also educational, highlighting such sites as historic forts and polar explorer Robert E. Peary’s home on Eagle Island.

“It’s just a great family adventure, really,” Farnum said.

Also appearing at Thursday’s event will be Robert and Nancy Curtis of Bowdoinham, who will receive the first senior vehicle pass for visiting all 48 parks. Jeanne Curran, director of public information at the Department of Conservation, said a third family from Limerick may also be receiving a pass.

Curran said the boxes to collect stamps will be available at the parks year-round. People can collect stamps cumulatively over the years.

“The idea wasn’t to be a race, and it surprised us that someone was able to get it done in four weeks,” Curran said. “We’re delighted that these folks completed it and had such a wonderful time doing it.”

Pride said the journey encouraged them to check out other Maine landmarks and to take a family camping trip in the northern woods of Rangeley, rather than their traditional location on Sebago Lake. They may also take part in a lighthouse checklist they discovered before visiting Warren Island.

“We enjoyed it so much, we’re doing it again,” she said.

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Debi Pride and Wally Farnum of Buckfield on their last stop on their way to Warren Island in their quest to visit all 48 Maine State Parks. Pride and Farnum got their parks passport stamped at all 48 state parks , it took them 28 days to complete the feat.

Debi Pride and Wally Farnum of Buckfield make their way to Warren Island in their quest to visit all 48 Maine state parks this summer. Pride and Farnum got their parks passport stamped at all 48 state parks in 28 days.


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