BOSTON — After a hike in a Massachusetts park more than three decades ago, a simple plan to get more people to enjoy the outdoors on New Year’s Day has become a national movement.
In 1992, only 380 people took part in the original first-day hike on the nearly 7,000-acre (2,830-hectare) Blue Mountains Preserve south of Boston. Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in “day one hikes” at hundreds of parks across all 50 states on Sunday.
A vigorous walk is a great way to start the new year — literally — get outside, enjoy nature, spend time with family and friends, and maybe start making New Year’s resolutions to stay in shape, park officials Talk to the participants.
“It’s all about mind, body and soul,” said Rodney Franklin, park director for the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.
The late former Blue Hills executive Patrick Flynn came up with the original plan.
“He wanted a way to get people into the park in the winter, because a lot of people think the park is only a summer place,” said Priscilla Gadges, deputy commissioner for conservation and resource management at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Steve Olanoff, 77, attended the inaugural event in the Blue Hills in 1992 and is now a volunteer, helping shepherds hike along the park’s trails each year travel.
“Back then, there wasn’t much to do on New Year’s Day,” he said. “Everyone’s sitting at home watching TV. When I heard about an opportunity to go hiking, I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try.’ It’s amazing how many people are doing it now.”
Over the years, more Massachusetts state parks were added. Then, parks in other states joined in. In 2012, the National Association of State Park Directors endorsed the idea of First Day Hikes, which spread across the country.
“It just goes to show that a person can have ideas that can spread like that,” Gages said.
Some states added their own twists. At Ink Lake State Park in Burnett County, Texas, northwest of Austin, participants can join the first day of running, biking or canoeing or kayaking.
Some Oregon locations may require snowshoes or cross-country skis, said Jason Resch, marketing manager for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation. Elijah Bristol State Park near Eugene even offers first-day horseback riding.
“Just bring your own horse,” Resch said.
Some hikes are guided by park rangers or volunteers who teach about the history, geography, flora and fauna of a particular park. That, in turn, has fueled stewardship efforts, Geigis said, and a commitment to protecting parks and open spaces. Refreshments are available at many stops.
People of all ability levels are welcome.
“We want to reach as many people as possible,” Franklin said. “So some of our hikes will be on paved flat surfaces that aren’t too long, but if you want a brisk, longer hike, you can do that.”
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Infants, the elderly and people with dogs all took part in the first-day hike in Branford State Forest in Chester, Mass., said Elizabeth Massa, president of Western Mass Hilltown Hikers, who oversees 1.5 A mile (2.4 km) long hiking excursion.
“If your New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, lose weight and get healthier, then this is your chance,” she said.
Mark Platt AP