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Take a hike on Sunday to celebrate the New Year

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 | 6:37 p.m. CST; updated 7:19 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — When the new year comes around most people come up with a resolution, but what about starting a healthy hiking tradition?

Hikers will meet at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park at 12:45 p.m. Sunday to celebrate First Day Hikes, a program started more than 20 years ago as a way to promote healthy living and recreation at state parks.

This is the first year that nine of Missouri's state parks have participated in First Day Hikes, but it is the 10th year for the Friends of Rock Bridge Hike at the Rock Bridge state park. Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a support group that helps the park with events, such as litter clean-ups, monetary support and other volunteer projects.

Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks — a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said the hike is significant this year because all 50 states are participating.

"People this year are part of something that's bigger than Rock Bridge Memorial State Park or Missouri state parks," Bryan said. "We encourage people to start the New Year off right."

The park is located near Columbia and anyone interested in the hike should show up at the Devil's Icebox parking lot, 5901 S. Highway 163.

Hikes are free, guided and open to individuals and families hoping to enjoy an opportunity to connect with the outdoors, according to a Missouri state parks news release.

The Rock Bridge hike will last around three hours and be three miles long in the Gans Creek Wild Area. There will also be an option for a shorter hikes that last about 1 1/2 to two hours and are two miles long.

Jim Gast, superintendent for Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, said the park might add additional paths, depending on how many people show up for the event.

Bryan said this is considered a healthy start to the New Year and Missouri state parks is excited to be a part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.

"Hiking at this time of the year lets you see things you don't usually see," Bryan said. "Plus, the weather will be great, so people should come out."

For more information on the First Day Hikes and all Missouri state parks and historic sites, go to mostateparks.com. For more information on the First Day Hikes initiative across the nation, go to americasstateparks.org.


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