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New Year's Hikes | Galveston Beaches | Wildlife Trunks

Start Your Year With a Hike       

By Cynthia Pickens

Last New Year’s Day found me, my husband and three teenage girls bundled up against bone-chilling cold and drizzle on a hike at Lockhart State Park. Despite the inclement weather (or maybe because of it) we made some memories.

Take a First Day Hike and make some family memories of your own. Texas’ state parks will host First Day Hikes for the fifth time on Jan. 1, 2016. Kick off the new year right by spending time outdoors in one of Texas’ many beautiful places.


America’s State Parks hosts First Day Hikes across the nation. Last year 41,000 people hiked 79,442 miles in state parks. Here in Texas, 78 parks planned 131 events for last year’s event, and plans are to match those numbers this year.

Get a jump on everyone by starting your hike at midnight at Honey Creek State Natural Area. Stroll along the beach at Galveston Island State Park, tackle a mile-high trail at Davis Mountains State Park or walk in the “Footsteps of Texians” at San Jacinto Battleground.

Hikes vary from easy to challenging, from short to hours-long. Along the way, you will learn what makes each park special.

Find a hike near you at texasstateparks.org/FirstDayHikes.

Galveston’s Beaches Expand

The popular public beach along the seawall on Galveston Island has more room for sun seekers than ever, thanks to a project using reclaimed sand from a local waterway.

The $23 million project utilized 600,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the Galveston Ship Channel to create 15 blocks of additional beach last fall along the island’s seawall between 61st and 76th streets. It’s a collaborative effort between the Galveston Park Board, the City of Galveston and the Texas General Land Office. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, which routinely dredges the ship channel every 18–24 months to keep it navigable, placed the material on the beach rather than offshore this time.

“This is the single largest volume of sand ever placed on Galveston’s beaches,” says Kelly de Schaun, park board executive director. “This project is part of a long-term strategy to build public beaches, protect community assets from storm surges and increase property values on the island.”

The work began in mid-August and was completed in November.

“This project is a great example of what can happen when city, state and federal governments work together to accomplish a common objective,” said Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. “Dredge material is not only a cost-effective way to nourish a beach, it will help boost Galveston’s tourism and protect the seawall.”

Teaching With Treasure Chests

Want to teach young people about the natural world around them? There’s nothing better than a treasure chest (aka loaner trunks) filled with fascinating items to help you capture their attention.

Imagine how much your students would love to see a real taxidermied bat at Halloween, along with bat books, DVDs and posters. There’s a loaner trunk for that (it’s popular, so request it early). Perhaps your urban Scout troop would enjoy touching real pelts and skulls and viewing replicas of animal tracks and scat they might find in their neighborhood. There are loaner trunks for that, too.

Formal and informal educators and youth leaders may borrow TPWD loaner trunks (at Austin headquarters and some field locations) free of charge. Each trunk contains activities and materials appropriate for multiple age groups; information about them can be found on the TPWD website (http://bit.ly/1GTzb9B).

New this year is a companion Web page (http://bit.ly/1NZXDpe) listing loaner trunks available across the state from our partners like the Amarillo Zoo and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. Some even come with a real-life presenter. Sign up for yours today!

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