Contacts: Jeanne Curran, (207) 287-3156
Maine State Parks “First Day Hikes” to become Regular New Year’s Day Event
(January 3, 2012)
AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s participation this weekend in the nationwide “First Day Hikes” initiative was very successful, despite the freezing New Year’s Eve rain in northern Maine that affected one planned hike, according to Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) officials.
More than 235 people took part in four “First Day Hikes” held on New Year’s Day, Sunday, Jan. 1, at four different state parks, and one park manager reported that more than 500 people visited his ocean-front park that day. Admission was free on Sunday at all Maine state parks.
So successful was the statewide event that Maine’s First Day Hikes are planned to be held again next year and are well on their way to become a New Year’s Day tradition, said Will Harris, BPL director, under the Maine Department of Conservation.
“My New Year’s wish is that this becomes a part of everyone’s New Year tradition, that everyone gets out and enjoys Maine,” Harris said.
Maine state parks joined the America’s State Parks nationwide initiative among all 50 states to offer “First Day Hikes” as way for individuals and families to connect with great outdoor fun and to create special, holiday memories. The Jan. 1 hikes marked the first time all U.S. state park systems worked together to sponsor the event.
Public response to the event was very positive, according to BPL staff. “Thank you so much for the FIRST DAY HIKES!!” emailed one participant. “My husband and I hiked the Casco Bay trail at Wolfe's Neck. We were surrounded by families, friendly dogs, and delighted visitors. We appreciate your effort.”
BPL held four unique, guided hikes at four different parks around Maine. In general, participation was excellent, with the exception of a small turn-out at Aroostook State Park – Maine’s First State Park – in Presque Isle.
A freezing rain on New Year’s Eve “coated everything, and the roads were not the best to drive on,” Park Manager Scott Thompson reported. “Ice storm conditions made everything beautifully icy.” Park staff spent an hour sanding the parking lot before the event, he said.
Nonetheless, 10 hardy souls braved the elements and took a 1-mile walk in the Aroostook County park. Thompson and Ranger Alan Cleaves showed off the park’s new bird feeding stations and nesting boxes. The park is the site of an annual springtime birding festival.
At Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds Township, 27 hikers explored the beautiful, Down East coastal park, reported Park Manager Matt McGuire.
“We had many participants travel more than one hour to attend the event, and for many it was their first time to this park,” McGuire said.
At Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg, one of Maine’s most popular state parks, more than 100 participants enjoyed the excellent weather and exploring the beach and dunes in a 2-mile beach walk. Visitors also could view a display of aerial beach photographs of Popham Beach, known for its dynamic topography.
“The event was very well received, and if we were not limited by the tide, we could have done a second hike,” Park Manager Brian Murray reported.
Park Manager Andy Hutchinson at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport said that more than 100 hikers took part in the afternoon walk, while at least 20 visitors checked out the nature displays. More than 500 visitors in total enjoyed the park, known for its coastal trails and annual osprey residents.
“The response was great, and people were very enthused about the First Day Hikes and want to see it continue,” Hutchinson reported. “We had many first time visitors to the park and on our nature programs, raising awareness of our parks and winter events.
“Some folks mentioned that they had been on the hike at Popham Beach and liked it so much that they came to ours at Wolfe’s Neck Woods,” he said.
For more information about Maine state parks, go to: www.parksandlands.com
For more information about America’s State Parks, go to: http://www.americasstateparks.org/