Message From The Director
I used to tell people we weren’t a traditional family. Not that we were unique in any way other than we didn’t really have any strong holiday traditions like many families. We enjoyed the holidays, but meals, locations and so many other typical recurring traditions in other families never really took hold in ours. That all changed about 10 years ago when we decided to decorate gingerbread men one night with our kids. None of them were really young and we had never done it before, but the events that unfolded that night had us laughing so hard we decided to do it again the following year, and the annual tradition has carried on. It has become an evening filled with Christmas socks, a white elephant exchange and a cut-throat cookie decorating contest that we have judged online by our social media followers. I can hardly wait for December 23 this year.
The State Park Service has traditions as well. From our uniform to our CCC legacy, we have a long history that we love to share and embrace. While we embrace our past and the traditions of it, we also try to create room for new traditions, and this time of year you can see it in force. From polar plunges on the coast to light displays at Oconee, new traditions are created. Visiting Santa on the Beach or at Table Rock has become a family tradition for many, and were born of a park ranger’s idea. Each year our talented staff creates more opportunities for visitors to enjoy our parks, and some of those simple programs will become traditions. The holiday ornament making or the 5k run that they try this year may become an annual event that both staff and visitors enjoy.
One of those events came from a ranger’s idea in another state, and it has become a nationwide activity-- First Day Hikes! On January 1, people from around the country head to parks to kick the year off outdoors. In South Carolina we have participated in this event for years and this year is no exception. More than 30 park sites are offering activities, and while most of them are hikes, several are a little different. There will be polar plunges at Hunting Island and Paris Mountain, a horseback ride at Lee and 5k races at Devils Fork and Charles Towne Landing. This year also sees the first public opening of two sites for a first day hike, Ramsey Grove outside of Georgetown and May Forest on James Island. These new properties are not open yet but the first day hikes will be a chance to get a sneak peek as we plan for these sites.
As I have for many years, I plan to start my new year walking in a park. Spending time with the staff that has worked hard over the holiday season and with the users that love our parks, is an energizing way for me to jump-start the new year. When I see the uniformed staff, I am appreciative of how hard they work to make events like this and others a reality for our visitors. As I hike next to visitors who have no idea who I am, I hear stories of park visits and plans for more that remind me why we do what we do. And as I enjoy the natural resources of our state, I am awed by the beauty we get to protect and share every day!
So this year, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to start a tradition. Head outside and spend some time in your parks. Get your new year kicked off with some appreciation and inspiration-- get outdoors and play.