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Outside Perspective

Photo of Jeannie Haddaway-RiccioIf we have ever looked forward to a new year, it has to be this one! 2020 was difficult, but Maryland’s amazing natural resources provided us with the safe recreation, solace, and quality time together that many of us needed to stay “Maryland Strong.”

In fact, our Maryland State Parks welcomed a record number of visitors in 2020—more than 20 million—far surpassing the previous record of 14.9 million total visitors in 2019. Our Maryland Parks staff and Natural Resources Police did an outstanding job handling this unprecedented visitation.

In this edition of the Maryland Natural Resource, we hear from one of those visitors who is also one of our park system’s greatest advocates. Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford gives us an update on his state park “bucket list” quest to visit all 75 of Maryland’s state parks. I have had the opportunity to join him on his visits and experience how each of our parks has a unique history, a unique identity, and unique opportunities to connect Marylanders with our natural world.

As we begin 2021, the availability of winter activities on our public lands is also a welcomed thought. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and hikes on snow-covered trails are all great ways to stay healthy as we head into the new year.

Ensuring that all Marylanders have adequate access to parks and their amenities is a priority at our department. We worked with the University of Maryland School of Public Health to develop a park equity mapping tool to help planners and community leaders guide investments and make informed decisions on where future park development and enhancements should occur. I encourage you to read how the Maryland Park Equity Analysis will shape the future of parks and greenspace throughout our state.

I also hope you will take a moment to read our recognition of Maryland Department of Natural Resources employees who celebrated work milestone anniversaries in 2020. These invaluable employees have provided ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, and even more—in fact, this year we have two who reached 45 years of service. Their depth of knowledge and dedication to public service helps us excel at our mission and makes our state a better place. My thanks and appreciation go to each of them.

Finally, for those of you who know me, you know that I love to cook, which is why we are very excited to share a sneak preview of our new Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ cookbook. Wild Maryland includes recipes submitted by Maryland residents that feature Maryland species. Recipes include those using waterfowl, seafood, deer, and other wild game as well as recipes using ingredients found while foraging in the wild.

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio

Article appears in Vol. 23, No. 4 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, winter 2021.