Once in a while you get something for nothing. The other day when I was at the grocery store, there were two carts full of Easter egg dye kits and that shiny “grass” – free for the taking. Knowing that Easter will arrive again and there are now lots of little children in the family, I helped myself to this free stuff.

There are many Web sites on the Internet for free stuff, but often there’s a “hook” like filling out a long survey and you end up releasing your e-mail address, which then turns into a flood of unwanted offers.

The state of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands has something for nothing – for senior citizens 65 and over. A free pass to many state parks and other places operated by the state. (Before my fellow columnists correct my assumption, I do realize that this benefit is funded by tax dollars.)

To obtain a pass, one needs to drop a line to the Bureau of Parks and Lands, 22 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0022 and ask for the Free Senior Citizen pass. You will get a brochure and you can start planning! You will have to send a copy of your birth certificate and copy of driver’s license to prove your age.

But just think, given the cost of gasoline, why plan a long trip to another state, when thousands of visitors think Maine is the ultimate vacationland?

Maine has many different kinds of parks including those perfect for hiking, mountain climbing, swimming, boating and more.

These free passes do not apply to Baxter State Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, The Penobscot River Corridor, Maine Wildlife Park, or Scarborough Beach – but they do apply to a great many places like Sebago Lake State Park, Ferry Beach State Park, Crescent Beach and many others.

You and your friends could chip in on the cost of gasoline and plan a day trip to a number of places nearby in Cumberland and York Counties. I’d love to visit the Pemaquid “dig” again, since it was the first place I visited in Maine when I returned in 1970. And by saving the cost of an Individual Pass ($30), even a trip through a fast food drive-thru could be thrown in!

In Windham, applications for these passes are available at the Parks and Recreation Department located in town hall.

Another free event, sure to be of interest to many of us, is the Thursday, June 7 “Salute to a Healthy Heart,” scheduled at Unity Gardens in Windham. It is sponsored by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, is free of charge with refreshments to follow the presentation. Karen Chagnon, dietician for the agency on aging, will provide information on Eating Well for Heart Health. To make a reservation or for more information, call Anne at 1-800-427-7411.

The best bargain of all may be our public libraries. If you live in Cumberland County, you can get a free library card to Portland Public Library. Most towns and cities have public libraries as well. Today’s libraries feature videos, movies, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and a variety of materials in addition to books. Check out your library today. Book clubs and other events are often planned to promote the feeling of community.

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