Florida Park Service to Celebrate the New Year with First Day Hikes across the state on January 1, 2012

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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us


~Rejuvenate by taking a family friendly trek through a state park close to home~

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Park Service will sponsor free, guided hikes in nine state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states. America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 at a state park close to home. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family. 
“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into Florida’s award-winning state parks,” said DEP’s Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “First Day Hikes are a great way to enjoy the Florida sunshine and burn off those extra holiday calories by starting off the New Year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks.”
America’s State Parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. From California to Maine, hikers can climb hills and mountain tops, walk along ponds and beaches, and traverse trails through forests, fields and prairies. Visitors can listen to birds, breathe in the fresh air, discover wildlife tracks, feel the wind and the warmth of the sun or the coldness of the snow. Visitors can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable state park guide.   
What better way to kick off the New Year than with a hike at a state park?” said Ruth Coleman, President of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s State Parks on New Year’s Day.”  
First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, this is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor  First Day Hikes.
“Studies have proven that getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit,” stated Phil McNelly, NASPD’s Executive Director. “We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine.”
Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park. Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s state parks website. Visit www.americasstateparks.org to find a First Day Hike nearest you.
In Florida, hikes will be offered at the following locations and times on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012:

Torreya State Park, Bristol

9 a.m.

Enjoy a two mile guided hike through the most diverse topography in Florida and the Steephead Ravine systems bring a vast array of rare and endangered plants and animals. The federally endangered Torreya tree is one example of the special features that call Torreya State Park home. Water and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 850-643-2674.


Camp Helen State Park, Panama City Beach

10 a.m.

This two mile ranger lead hike winds through beautiful oak hammocks, coastal dune lake areas out to a gorgeous white sand beach. Water, insect repellant, sun screen and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 850-233-5058.


Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, Cross Creek

10 a.m.

Meet at the barn in the farmyard at this national historic landmark for a walk through the home of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Visitors can also explore the park’s two short trails through the park, the first trail goes from the front of the house in a loop through a Florida hammock and the second trail leads from the back of the historic property through a fern forest to the cypress trees. For more information, call 352-466-6372.


Little Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville

12 p.m.

The Dune Ridge Trail meanders for two miles atop an ancient dune ridge under a canopy of live oaks, cedars and sable palms in a lush maritime hammock and concludes with a two mile walk along Little Talbot Island's picturesque beach. Water, snacks, insect repellant, layered clothing and a camera are recommended. For more information, call 904-251-2320.


Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach

9 a.m.

This easy six mile hike winds along ancient sand dunes in a maritime forest of centuries old live oaks. Water and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 904-277-7274.


Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach

8 a.m.

Join a park ranger on an early morning stroll along one of the Atlantic Ocean's dynamic beaches to learn about the drama of the endangered sea turtles, the importance of barrier islands and more. Water, comfortable walking shoes, insect repellant and sunscreen are recommended. For more information, call 321-984-4852.


Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland

10 a.m.

Participants should meet at the Mac Lake Pavilion for this two mile ranger led hike, meandering through pine flatwoods, around cypress domes and by bottomland forests. Along the way, visitors will have the opportunity to view native plants and animals while learning about the natural and cultural resources of the park. Water, insect repellant, sunscreen and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 863-815-6761.


De Leon Springs State Park, De Leon Springs

1 p.m.

Join a park ranger for a four mile hike on the Wild Persimmon Trail. Deer, turkeys and occasionally a black bear are spotted on this trail. Water, insect repellant and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 386-985-4212.


Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin

11 a.m.

A knowledgeable volunteer will guide visitors down nearly a mile of the Osprey Trail. With an optional two mile hike, visitors should bring water, sunscreen, binoculars and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 727-738-2903.

America's State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children. Getting kids outside and unplugged from video games and other electronic media creates a unique connection with nature that promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of our shared resources.
The mission of the NASPD and America's State Parks is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy.