Special to the Journal
For the 30th year in a row, the State will offer residents and visitors the opportunity to explore the great outdoors through the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) First Week Hikes program in celebration of the start of the New Year.
An alternative to the traditional First Day Hikes, First Week Hikes encourage visitors to enjoy outdoor activities on their own throughout the first week of the New Year, until Friday, Jan. 8. This year, DCR celebrates 30 years of this tradition in the Commonwealth. Additionally, it marks 10 years that all 50 states have adopted this happy, healthy New Years’ tradition.
“First Day Hikes are a time honored tradition for many people across the Commonwealth, with thousands of visitors ringing in the New Year with a hike in a state park,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “It is with pleasure that the tradition continues and we are pleased to offer safe, healthy, recreational opportunities through these First Week Hikes.”
Historically, First Day Hikes are popular adventures guided by DCR staff. In an effort to provide residents and visitors with outdoor recreation opportunities for the New Year in a safe manner during the COVID-19 pandemic, DCR will implement the following changes for this year:
•Extending the traditional one-day hike to any day or multiple visits during First Week 2021 to prevent crowds forming at parks;
•Introducing self-guided adventures to encourage social distancing in place of guided offerings, for a list of recommendations visit the DCR website.
“Taking a stroll in your local park for First Week Hikes is a great way to kick-off the new year, build tradition, and discover the stunning natural and recreational resources that Massachusetts has to offer,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “For the 30th year, the state parks system has provided hiking opportunities on January 1, and while this year may look a little different, DCR still encourages people to get outdoors safely.”
Ahead of an adventure outdoors, watch the DCR First Week Hike video and see the following guidance:
•Pick a local park near you, not necessarily a state park;
•Print or download a trail map;
•Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately;
•Keep your hike short and safe;
•Be flexible – if a park is busy, visit another park or return at a later time; and,
•Return to your car by 4:30 p.m. before the sun sets;
DCR asks visitors to park in designated areas only, if a parking lot is full come back another time. Many visitor centers remain closed. However, restrooms or porta-johns within many DCR parks remain open. Dogs are to be on leash in state parks unless signage designates otherwise. Dogs are not permitted on DCR Water Supply Protection areas. To find a dog-friendly park, visit the DCR website.
First Day Hikes were started at the Blue Hills Reservation in the Town of Milton in 1992 in an effort to promote year-round outdoor recreation, and to motivate the public to explore the Commonwealth’s awe-inspiring natural resources. A growing collection of participating states culminated in 2012 when all 50 state park systems joined together to sponsor America’s State Parks First Day Hikes Initiative, which has since become the signature nationwide program for the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD).