CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — State parks officials expect thousands of people to head out on First Day Hikes Tuesday.
Before lunchtime, the parking lots were packed at Pocahontas State Park with families, friends and pets. Cars were lined up at the entrance.
A bunch of neighbors were meeting up at a trailhead.
“We’re not so much into resolutions but it’s better to start the day off instead of your pantry eating cookies,” Arnika Hoover said. She organized the neighborhood walk through the state park. “We all have lived here for years and do this annually at 11 a.m. so it gives us time to sleep.”
All 38 of Virginia’s State Parks were open for free Tuesday, as part of a nationwide initiative to get people outside.
“A lot of people make resolutions and don’t keep them but there’s a handful that go keep them,” park manager Joshua Ellington said.
Some of the visitors keep coming back throughout the year to hold true to their healthy resolutions, Ellington says. Being so close to the City of Richmond helps too.
“People may own just enough property for their house to be on, we are their backyard, we are their property,” he added. “They take pride in us.”
Depending on the weather, state parks officials expect between 10,000 to 15,000 people to head to the parks on New Year’s Day.
But others making their way to sites run by the National Park Service (NPS) may run into some roadblocks. Currently, 80 percent of NPS employees are being furloughed because of the partial federal government shutdown, that’s about 16,000 people.
The shutdown is being caused by gridlock in Washington over a part of the budget bill calling for funding for border security and a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border. It’s been going on for a week and a half.
While hundreds of people were walking around the James River in Richmond today, the outside of the Tredegar Civil War Visitor Center was quiet. A sign on the door of the visitor center addressed to park visitors said the NPS is “unable to fully staff the property” during the shutdown, so it will “not operate parks or visitor services.”
On the other hand, Virginia state parks officials say they will not feel any immediate effects from the federal shutdown since they operate on funds from the General Assembly and from visitor fees.
“In the future, federal grants for programs like AmeriCorps and major construction projects could be impacted,” a spokesperson for Virginia State Parks said in a statement. “Virginia State Parks are open every day of the year, and we look forward to being the vacation and recreation destination for millions of visitors in 2019.”
And on the first day of 2019, Virginians tried to start their day off on the right foot.
“Just start walking. One step at a time get your shoes on and know that you can live a healthy life,” Hoover said, heading into the woods.