State parks offer New Year's Day tours and hikes

jtate@bradenton.comDecember 31, 2013 

The Florida Park Service is promoting health, exercise and nature with its third annual First Day of Hikes in Florida state parks on New Year's Day.

Four participating parks in southwest Florida are Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach and Stump Pass Beach State Park in Englewood.

First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New

Year rejuvenating and reconnecting with the outdoors by hiking at a state park, official say. An estimated 48 state parks are participating.

The initiative aims to give people something educational and healthy to do to start their new year off on a positive note.

Peter Krulder, park manager for Honeymoon Island, hopes families find a peaceful time at state parks on New Year's Day.

"Let's get people out in the parks," Krulder said.

Park staff and volunteers will guide the hikes, offering educational commentary along the way. Start times vary by park.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection promotes the events, which have been taking place for three years, said Leylani Velez, administrative assistant to the director's office.

"Everyone makes a New Year's resolution. This gets people out to reconnect with nature," said Velez. She said it promotes the healthier lifestyle many people want to begin in the new year.

Tours with park rangers begin in the morning, but people can tour or hike on their own later. All parks are open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

"The tours give you information on flora and fauna in the area, but hiking you can do any day," said Velez. "People can do it at their own leisure."

First Day of Hikes park information:

• Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin. Tour begins at 10:30 a.m. Only entrance to the park is by boat. Entrance fee is $6.

• Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin. Tour begins at 11 a.m., $8 per vehicle, $4 single-occupant vehicle, $2 pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers and passengers in vehicles with annual individual entrance passes.

• Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., $8 per vehicle with multiple people, $4 single-occupant vehicle, $2 pedestrians, bicyclists, and passengers in vehicles with annual individual entrance passes.

• Stump Pass Beach State Park, Englewood. Tour begins at 9 a.m., $3 per vehicle for up to eight people. Correct change required.

For more information about the event go to floridastateparks.org.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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