Winter can be great hiking season.

Winter can be great hiking season. Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Island’s parks and open spaces have been crucial resources over the last two years, and residents made good use of them. For state parks on LI, year-over-year seasonal attendance for 2020 and 2021 far exceeded that of the same months in pre-pandemic 2019.

All the more reason to support and enjoy our green spaces with the upcoming First Day Hikes program that welcomes visitors for a jaunt on New Year’s Day.

The program, which originated in Massachusetts in 1992, is more than a way to promote nature and parks. Starting off your year with a guided or self-guided trek can be invigorating. Winter can be great hiking season — you can have less fear of insects, like ticks. Landscape views are even more visible, what with leafless trees. And colder weather deters the crowds, so you might have a secluded trail nearly to yourself.

That means a safe outdoor activity that can lift the mind and body while another COVID-19 variant threatens indoor spaces.

State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation are welcoming New Yorkers to dozens of Jan. 1 hikes around the state. Long Island events include ones at Bethpage State Park, the Connetquot River State Park Preserve woodlands, Ridge Conservation Area, and Hempstead Lake State Park, along with others around the region.

The panoply of options is an important reminder of how blessed Long Island is with beautiful outdoor spaces, from beaches to fields to pine barrens to riverfront shores. We must support, protect, and yes, patronize this legacy, all year long.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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