With Father’s Day Sunday, June 20, Maine residents have several reasons to celebrate that notable event.

This year also coincides with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands annual “Maine Day,” when, rain or shine, all Maine residents will be admitted free of charge to all Maine state parks and historic sites

Now also is the appropriate time to make sure dads and family members can repeat the day’s fun of visiting one of Maine’s 48 state parks or historic sites by purchasing park passes, good for the entire summer season.

Park attendance during this 75th anniversary year already has been high in comparison to previous seasons, and numerous special events and programs are taking place at the parks in recognition of the anniversary.

“Every year we like to say thank you to all our Maine friends for supporting our wonderful state parks and historic sites, and conservation in general, by having a free admission day,” Will Harris, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands director, said. “As a dad, I highly recommend getting out and visiting our state parks for a day of family fun. What a great way to celebrate being a father.”

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Maine state parks system, which was formed in 1935 when the Maine Legislature established the State Park Commission. Maine’s first state park, Aroostook State Park, was established in 1938 when a group of local Presque Isle businessmen donated 100 acres to form the park.

The system quickly grew to six parks and has continued to expand to what it is today, with 32 state parks, including 12 state park campgrounds, with 16 historic sites and three waterways. More than 2.3 million people visited Maine’s state parks last year, generating about $100 million annually for Maine’s economy.

So far this year, preliminary numbers show that attendance is increasing in day use and campground nights, both because of the warm, early spring season and strong public interest, according to BPL officials. Five of the state park campgrounds in particular were able to open early this season because of the good weather.

Total attendance for day use and camping for the year to date is up 27 percent in comparison to last year, with 436,754 for the first two quarters of 2010 compared to 341,920 for the same period in 2009. Camping overnights already are up 42.2 percent year to date, with 20,671 overnights in 2010 compared to 14,534 overnights in 2009. Day-use totals year to date show a 27.1 percent increase over last year, with 416,083 people visiting so far this year compared to 327,386 people for the same period last year.

The BPL has annually recognized the support of Maine residents for a number of years by holding Maine Day, one day during the season when admission to all parks and historic sites is free.

This year, vehicles bearing Maine license plates will be allowed to enter with no fees charged from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 20. No rain date will apply. The open admission does not apply to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect, though admission to Fort Knox State Historic Site, one of the most popular historic sites in the state, will be free that day.

Park visitors also are reminded to get their free Maine State Parks Passport at participating state parks and historic sites and to stamp the appropriate page for each park visited. The new Parks Passport program was unveiled last month as part of the 75th anniversary celebration. Passport holders can win prizes for the number of parks visited. Several park managers already report that some visitors have as many as 18 stamps and counting in their passports.

One special event of note taking place on Father’s Day Sunday is the firing of the historic fort oven at Fort Knox State Historic Site in Prospect. The 150-year-old oven, once used to feed soldiers garrisoned at the famous fort, will be used to bake goods available for tasting, with a small donation to benefit the upcoming Civil War re-enactment, “The Battle at Fort Knox,” on July 21-25. The huge, historic brick oven was fired last month for the first in 112 years.

For more information about Maine state parks, go online at parksandlands.com.

VillageSoup sports staff can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at sports@villagesoup.com.