New York greets the New Year

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New York greets the New Year

AHN CHAK-HEE

The author is the head of the global cooperation team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
 
In mid-December, residents of New York state received an unexpected invitation for the New Year. The invite was from Governor Kathy Hochul, who was sworn in last summer. She proposed 20 million New Yorkers hike in state parks on New Year’s Day. “Hiking on one of the state’s beautiful trails is a unique way to welcome a bright, optimistic new year,” she explained, introducing the First Day Hikes program.

It may seem like a campaign by the New York state government tailored for people who are exhausted during the pandemic. But the origin of the program goes back to the Blue Hills Reservation near Boston, Massachusetts three decades ago. After 380 people participated in the program at first, it has become an annual “tradition” nationwide, hosted by the National Association of State Park Directors in 50 states from California to Florida since 2012. Last year, 55,000 people walked trails of various difficulties, covering 210,000 kilometers (130,000 miles) altogether, a distance amounting to five times around the Earth. While weather is a variable, more people were expected to join this year.

As outdoor activities become popular among Americans, the State of New York expanded free events and parking, including guided walks at 75 state parks, trails and historic sites. The recently completed 1,200 kilometer Empire State Trail is included. This is the longest multipurpose trails in any of the 50 states. 
 
 
As the unexpected pandemic continues for a third year, people around the world are tired mentally and physically. But it is not an extreme situation where we have to give up everything. We just need to endure the uncertain reality and get vaccinated.

Before the New Year, state park officials promoted safe physical activities. If you are willing but unable, or if the weather is too cold, you can join a virtual reality hike alongside other hikers.

As 70 percent of Korea’s land is mountainous, Koreans are no different. Without promotion from the local and central governments, sunrise spots around the country are crowded with individuals and groups of hikers, waiting to see the first sunrise of the year. Local governments are working on refurbishing hiking trails, and a safer, more convenient environment is being created. All you need to do is participate.

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