New Year's Day

People Hit Connecticut's Trails To Begin New Year

Replacing guided tours, many state parks added virtual elements to help entertain and educate park visitors.

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Aiming to clear their minds and hit reset for 2021, many people headed to Connecticut State Parks on Friday. Once again, the “First Day Hikes” were popular but a little different than usual.

Normally on New Year’s Day, groups would gather at Gillette Castle in East Haddam. They would then be escorted around the magnificent piece of property by a tour guide. Not this year though.

Instead, Gillette’s New Year’s Day tour was virtual. Explaining every intricate detail and historical significance of Gillette Castle was a video posted on YouTube and Facebook. Although not everyone took advantage of the video, they didn’t miss a chance to visit.

“We always love coming to Gillette Castle for the holidays,” said Kate Armentrout of Brooklyn, New York. “They usually have it all decorated nice.”

At several state parks, people traversed the terrain, all the while connecting with nature and the internet at the same time. Adapting to the current environment, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) replaced its guided tours this year with virtual ones at 10 state parks.

“There’s actual hikes that are happening in certain areas that are small groups. They’re more self-guided,” said DEEP spokesman Will Healey.

On the “Friends of Chatfield Hollow State Park” Facebook page, there is a virtual treasure hunt.

“This year, because of COVID, we had to plan this and coordinate it in a way that was all virtual,” said an organizer of the treasure hunt, Martina Jakober.

While taking in this Killingworth park’s natural beauty, some followed the treasure map while others said they’re starting the new year with a temporary break from technology and instead toured the park completely in reality.

“As much as we live in the virtual world a good part of the time, it’s just actually nice to be out and see people,” said Mark Enright of Madison.

According to DEEP, the idea of “First Day Hikes” is to get people outside and enjoy one of the state’s 110 state parks. Many were doing just that, preserving what has become a New Year’s Day tradition.

“We usually try to get out to take a walk. Especially if the weather is permitting,” said Linda Enright of Madison. “You know get everyone out and start the new year right.”

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