It’s serendipitous that New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, given the Maine State Park’s newly announced push to get folks outside and recreating on the first day of the year.

And this year, it’s part of a national call to get outside, the National Association of State Park Directors announced this weekend.

On Jan. 1, Maine will be one of the 50 states to host First Day Hikes, ranger-led hikes at a number of state parks statewide.

Modeled after First Hikes in Massachusetts, state park directors everywhere decided to collectively make the call to encourage Americans to enjoy the outdoors and get healthy.

“It’s going to be a big thing, a national celebration, the details of which will be released soon,” said Will Harris, director of the Maine Department of Conservation. “We want to start the year thinking of all the things we can do outside. We want to challenge ourselves to do that.”

The annual tradition started in Massachusetts 21 years ago, said Priscilla Geigis, the director of the Massachusetts conservation department.

Geigis, the vice president of the America’s State Parks organization, brought the idea to the nation’s state park directors this spring, and now for the first time, every state across the country will endeavor to have a hike on New Year’s Day. She said the website that lists all the hikes will be updated this weekend, at

In Massachusetts, eight state parks will host hikes, down from the 14 that were involved in 2010, but Geigis said the event is popular with several hundred who have shown up at the original venues.

“It’s a really great day to kind of exercise and also show fellowship with others, to connect with nature,” Geigis said. “There are 740 billion people who visit America’s state parks. We are really trying to promote our state parks as a place to maintain a healthy lifestyle and year-round recreation.”

In Maine, four state parks will host First Day hikes: Aroostook State Park, Cobscook Bay State Park, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and Popham Beach State Park.

The New Year’s Day hike is right in line with the state’s Take It Outside campaign that started four years ago and turned into an annual push. That slogan is no longer used by the state, but park rangers statewide are still in the mind-set: Get Maine Moving.

Ranger-led hikes in winter are not new at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park.

“I think it’s important to offer a hike on the first day of the year to set a positive tone for the year,” said Wolfe’s Neck Park Manager Andy Hutchinson. “During the hike, together we will gain an appreciation for some of the lessons nature teaches us about not just surviving, but thriving during winter.”

And the activity days that have been held at Maine parks in the winter the past four years will expand this winter, Harris said, although the details of that schedule are still being worked out, along with planning for the First Hikes.

“It’s been in the last four to five years and something we started to get institutionalized at the park system. Folks are planning on it, our folks. We hope folks who get out and about in Maine are also planning on it. That was the intention, to keep it going, and keep doing more,” Harris said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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