LAKE BROWNWOOD STATE PARK - There are plenty of reasons for people to attend the First Day Hike on Jan. 1 at Lake Brownwood State Park.
To name some: if you want to spend more time outdoors this year, or exercise more, or see wildlife - including a bald eagle - this would be a great way to start out the year.
That's the word from Becky Lindsey, office manager at the Lake Brownwood State Park. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have already extended an invitation to its First day Hikes at state parks throughout the state. There is no RSVP, but Linsdey and other employees at Lake Brownwood State Park want to extend a reminder: you're invited.
After the toughest year ever for Texas state parks, the system is preparing to take the first step toward a better 2012. At the Lake Brownwood park, the hike begins at 2 p.m.
The program will be led by a park ranger, and a campfire with hot chocolate and coffee will be provided at its conclusion in the pavilion in the Council Bluff campground.
Standard fees apply - $3 for ages 13 and above; 12 and under are free. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and stay to enjoy the park for the rest of the afternoon.
"People don't realize how nice our trails are, I don't think," Lindsey said. "We have tons of wildlife out here. We have lots of deer, lots of turkey. The bird-watching is really excellent."
A bald eagle has been nesting at McCartney Island and hunts near the cliffs where the cabins are located, Lindsey said. While there have been sightings of the eagle, no one has managed to get a photo of the fast, elusive bird, she said.
The park's First Day Hike will be along the newly renovated, two-mile Texas Oak Trail, which follows the lake shore and provides scenic views of Lake Brownwood. Other parts of the trail highlight the park's unique rock features.
Members of the Friends of Lake Brownwood State Park are also expected to be on hand to welcome visitors.
The trail is easy, with some moderate climbs and is suitable for families,"park Superintend John Holland said earlier. Those participating may want to bring a hiking stick and drinking water, and wear sturdy shoes. Parts of the trail are accessible for those with disabilities.
The trail was renovated by an Americorps Trail Crew using part of a $50,000 grant.
The hike is part of the statewide initiative to bring visitors back to state parks, which saw major traffic decreases in 2011 as a result of high temperatures, drought, and in some cases, wildfires.
Attendance at Lake Brownwood State Park this year has been down 40 percent, Holland said earlier. Revenue from entry fees is a major part of the annual budget for the state park system, and figures to be especially important at a time when funding from the state budget is limited due to a reco
"There are some things to do other than put your boat in the water," Holland said earlier. "We have trails, wildlife, 16 cabins, four lodges and two group facilities. There are place to go, and things to do. We're hoping folks will come back and visit once again."