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First Day Hikes give NYers chance to start new year on the right foot


New Yorkers resolved to having a healthier new year could get a step ahead Wednesday with a special hiking program at some of the region's state parks. Guided First Day Hikes are planned at 23 state parks and historic sites, including Letchworth, Allegany and Fort Niagara.This is the third year that New York State Parks have taken part in what has become a nationwide event: spending the first day of the New Year with a hike.

"This is a healthy start to the New Year. It brings people out to our parks, our historic sites. It's really a refreshing start to the New Year. It also helps in de-stressing from the holidays," says Randy Simons, Public Information Officer for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Few parks and state historic sites, if any, charge admission fees during the winter. According to Simons, the First Day Hikes aren't about revenue, but they do present a unique way of promoting their product.

"We've got some e-mails. We got some calls of people who took part in the First Day Hike just on a whim or who thought about it and didn't have anything planned. When they went out there, they said 'Wow, I didn't realize you had all this to offer. I'm taking my parents. I'm taking my children here when things start gearing up in the spring and summer.' It's really just about reminding people about the outdoors," Simons says.

Since late November, the outdoor experience for many Western New Yorkers has been complicated by the presence of snow. For First Day Hike organizers, snow is less a problem and more of an opportunity.

"That's actually why we have our First Day Hikes geared towards that. I know over at Wilson-Tuscarora [State Park] we're actually hoping there's enough snow on the ground because we'll turn that into a snow shoe hike," Simons says.

Letchworth State Park is offering two hikes: one for families with young children, another for families with older children. Near Niagara Falls, a hike in DeVeaux Woods promises a walk through an old growth woods.

Allegany, Fort Niagara, Niagara Falls State Park, Whirlpool are among the region's parks offering First Day Hikes as well.

For more information, visit nysparks.com.

Monday - Friday, 6 a.m. - 10 a.m.