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Secretary’s Message – January 2022

Resolve to Accessing Maryland’s Natural World

Photo of First Day Hike sign in a state parkWhile it was a rainy start to 2022, I could not let a little rain get in the way of a great tradition. This year I joined Maryland Conservation Corps participants and visitors for a First Day Hike at Tuckahoe State Park, in Caroline County.

I certainly was not alone! About 3,000 hikers took to the trails for First Day Hikes at our state parks over three days, despite the rainy and wet conditions. We are pleased to see so many people continuing to enjoy this growing tradition!

In true Maryland fashion, following a warm and rainy New Year’s weekend, literally overnight, we turned a corner into winter weather! But snow and cold temperatures do not mean you have to stay inside. There are plenty of winter outdoor recreation opportunities on Maryland’s public lands from the mountains to the coast. Visit our website for activities near you, or plan a fun winter weekend getaway to one of these scenic destinations. Of the more than 19 million visitors in our state parks in 2021, 93 percent rated their experience as “excellent” or “above average” which speaks to the quality of our parks and our staff.

Photo of Secretary RiccioAs demand for outdoor recreation continues to grow, we are growing with it by increasing Maryland’s network of natural and open spaces. In addition to expanding our state lands, we are continuously partnering with nonprofit organizations, community partners, and local jurisdictions to support green space and outdoor recreation in our communities.

In fact, last year, we awarded $38.8 million in Program Open Space Local grant funding and $5 million in Community Parks and Playgrounds to fund 152 local park and recreation projects throughout the state. These important investments include nature trails, accessible playgrounds, and community gathering spaces that connect us with our friends, family, and neighbors in natural surroundings.

I hope everyone joins us for more outdoor activities as we look forward to many more great things to come throughout 2022. Happy New Year!

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.