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Cuomo encourages New Yorkers to celebrate 2021 outdoors with 'First Day Hikes' at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas & public lands

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Mon, Dec 28th 2020 07:00 am

10th anniversary event encourages people to spend New Year's Day weekend holiday enjoying nature

COVID-19 restrictions in place including mandatory mask-wearing and capacity restrictions to limit large group hikes

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently encouraged New Yorkers to celebrate the new year safely by spending time outdoors this holiday season at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands across the state beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Families across the state are invited to participate in one of the many walks and hikes being held across the state as part of the 10th annual “First Day Hikes” program, a partnership between the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"In these challenging times, getting out into nature has been a major outlet for safe and healthy recreation for New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "Whether you're taking a self-guided hike at a favorite park or discovering a new local trail this holiday season, New Yorkers have unparalleled options and destinations to embrace the outdoors this winter and bring in the New Year while remaining COVID safe and COVID smart."

With the Empire State Trail near completion, residents along the 750-mile route – the longest multiuse state trail in the nation – can enjoy the great outdoors while supporting tourism and community revitalization across the state. Information about the trail, including an interactive map detailing the route, designated parking areas and nearby attractions, is available on the project website.

Walks and hikes are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles and are being offered at more than 60 state parks, historic sites, DEC state lands, wildlife areas, forest preserve trails and environmental education centers. A list of New York “First Day Hikes,” location details, format, preregistration requirements and additional information can be found online at parks.ny.gov and dec.ny.gov. Interested participants are encouraged to check the details of their preferred host site and pre-register where required.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for safe outdoor recreation, there will be no large group hikes this year. The event options for hikes range from self-guided treks to staff- or volunteer-led hikes with a limited number of participants. All hikes are subject to regional COVID-19 limitations. Masks or face-coverings are mandatory, and capacity restrictions may limit participation so have some alternate locations in mind. Hikes will span Friday, Saturday or Sunday of January, allowing participants the time and space to social distance while still enjoying nature's winter wonders.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, " ‘First Day Hikes’ have grown into a popular tradition for many New Yorkers and we look forward to welcoming families and friends out on the trail at many of our parks and historic sites. While this year's program may look a little different from previous events, exploring the outdoors is still the perfect way to enjoy the winter landscapes, unwind with loved ones and kick off the coming year."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "One unexpected, yet welcome result of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in the number of New Yorkers heading outdoors to explore world-class recreational opportunities close to home. As we get ready to turn the page on 2020 and enter the New Year, DEC and our partners at State Parks are encouraging visitors to keep discovering New York's abundant lands and parks and to do so safely and responsibly by observing social distancing and other guidelines to ensure an enjoyable and healthy experience for everyone."

“I Love New York” Executive Director Ross Levi said, "This year gave New Yorkers a new opportunity to discover the wonders and adventures that await them just outside their doors. New York State is not just an amazing destination for visitors; it is a world-class getaway in our own backyard. ‘First Day Hikes’ and the new year will offer New Yorkers another chance to find what they love here in our own amazing state."

A list of local “First Day Hikes” is as follows:

  • Allegany State Park – Red House; call 716-354-9101, ext. 232, for more information
  • DeVeaux Woods State Park, Niagara Falls; 716-282-5154
  • Evangola State Park, Irving; 716-549-1050
  • Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown; 716-282-5154
  • Genesee Valley Greenway, Hinsdale; 585-493-3614
  • Genesee Valley Greenway, Cuba; 585-493-3614
  • Genesee Valley Greenway snowmobile ride, Avon; 585-964-3614
  • Hamlin Beach State Park, Hamlin; 585-964-2462
  • Knox Farm State Park, East Aurora; 716-549-1050
  • Letchworth State Park, Castile; 585-493-3680
  • Niagara Falls State Park; 716-282-5154
  • Plumbottom State Forest, Amity; 585-415-1521
  • Reinstein Environmental Education Center, Depew; 716-683-5959 

Get Outside Safely, Responsibly & Locally

New York state's “PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL” campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. New York State Parks and the DEC recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. “PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL” encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask, even when visiting the outdoors. For more information, visit: https://parks.ny.gov/covid19/.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 77 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518-474-0456. Also, connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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