Efforts to slow the spread of one very deadly virus has resulted in an exponential increase of an entirely different ailment running rampant now …cabin fever. And, as weather begins to improve, more people are hoping the thousands of acres of parkland across our region can provide the cure. That is why Legislator Kara Hahn, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and chairwoman of its Environment, Parks and Agriculture Committee, is launching her annual “A Park a Day in May” campaign with a twist. In 2020 she is highlighting a curated collection of public parkland, and hidden gems with great walking trails - encouraging the avoidance of more popular and often overcrowded locations. The challenge is also a great activity for home-schooled children, offering opportunities to observe many forms of wildlife in their natural habitat, including deer, nesting osprey and even eagles.
Hahn has modified the “A Park a Day in May” challenge, now in its fifth year, to conform with the current COVID-19 guidelines. This year all locations offer activities consistent with social distancing and will focus exclusively on running/walking/biking/hiking trails. Trails are not designed for large gatherings and therefore tend to encourage individuals, couples and very small groups more capable of social distancing. These trails provide opportunities to get out into nature, spot local wildlife, inhale fresh air, witness spectacular scenic views and even exercise -- all while avoiding large crowds and cramped spaces.
The challenge will share online photos and a description of a different park every day during the month of May. For each location visited, participants are to take and post a photo of him or herself at the park with the hashtags #APADIM and #aparkaday. Daily “A Park a Day in May” posts will be added to: www.facebook.com/KaraHahnLD5/.
“With daily life in a continual state of flux due to the coronavirus, nature stands in contrast to the turmoil of these past few months and represents the stability we now crave,” said Legislator Hahn. “Over the years the ‘A Park a Day in May’ challenge has developed a growing following with participants searching for new things to do on Long Island. It is my hope, that this year, the locations I’ve selected will not only be a new place to visit, but a place to leave behind anxiety and fear. Parks are places of calm and comfort. Right now, we need our parks more than ever to rest and reflect. Parks provide beauty and are a diversion from these challenging times. Parks offer relief, refreshment, peace and tranquility.”
With many traditional May activities cancelled, some parks or amenities have been closed and the number of visitors allowed reduced. Despite this, Legislator Hahn is convinced that there are safe ways to get out into our parks to relax and have fun. All of the new health guidelines that apply elsewhere also apply in our parks. Yes, we still need to maintain 6-foot minimum social distance and wear masks when we can’t. “Thanks to our wealth of parkland in Suffolk County, following these guidelines while enjoying the outdoors is still possible.”
It is expected that these trails will attract more visitors now. The parks are least likely to be crowded at dawn and just before dusk. If parking lots appear full or nearby roadways are lined with cars, please be considerate and come back another time.