Start the year off with a hike
New Year's Day is a day of hiking in Oklahoma.
What better way to start that New Year's resolution to exercise and live healthier than by taking a hike on the first day of the year. It's also a good way to work off the black-eyed peas and cornbread most of us will be eating.
State parks are hosting guided hikes on Tuesday at 20 locations in the state. The parks have been holding First Day Hikes for several years to promote the trails and outdoor recreation.
“We encourage guests to visit a state park year-round for not only physical, but mental health and wellness,” said Kris Marek, director of Oklahoma's state parks.
In the Oklahoma City area, Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman will hold both a half-mile hike and a 2-mile hike on New's Year Day. The hikes will begin at 11 a.m. with meeting locations at the Nature Center and the South Dam Pavilion.
Hikers should remember to wear weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Also, hikers can bring snacks plus binoculars or a camera for wildlife viewing.
Other state parks holding New Year's Day hikes are Alabaster Caverns near Freedom; Boiling Springs near Woodward; Roman Nose near Watonga; Grand Lake near Bernice; and at the Grand Lake golf course near Langley;
Greenleaf near Braggs; Keystone near Sand Springs; Lake Eufaula near Checotah; Natural Falls near Siloam Springs; Osage Hills near Pawhuska; Sequoyah near Hulbert; Arrowhead near Canadian;
Beavers Bend near Broken Bow; Lake Wister; McGee Creek near Atoka; Robbers Cave near Wilburton; Lake Murray near Ardmore; Fort Cobb and Foss.
For more information and times and lengths of New Year's Day hikes, go to travelok.com. Pets on leash are welcome at most parks.
Also Tuesday, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department's new 2019 state parks and outdoor guide will be available.
The guide is free and can be obtained at state parks and tourism information centers. It can also be ordered at travelok.com/brochures or by calling 800-652-6552.
Eagle watching peaks in January, February
State parks in Oklahoma are also great places for eagle viewing.
Several state parks and national wildlife refuges hold organized eagle viewing events that peak in January and February as bald eagles winter in Oklahoma.
Bald eagles prefer to settle near Oklahoma's lakes and rivers for easy access to food. Groups of eagles will rest together, or “roost,” in trees along the shores, with the same roost trees being used each year.
Near Oklahoma City, both Lake Arcadia near Edmond and Lake Thunderbird near Norman hold eagle watches.
Arcadia Lake's annual eagle watch will be Friday through Sunday. Visitors can pick up information at the Arcadia Lake Park Office, 9000 E Second St., about where eagles might be seen. There is a $3 fee per vehicle.
Lake Thunderbird will hold an eagle watch on Saturday and then one every two weeks on Saturdays through March. For more information, call 321-4633.
Deadline nears for public comments on regulation changes
This is the final chance to get in your two cents on the hunting and fishing regulation changes being proposed in 2019 by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
There are public hearings scheduled in McAlester and Oklahoma City on Thursday. The public hearing in Oklahoma City will be at 7 p.m. at the agency's headquarters on 1801 N Lincoln.
The Wildlife Department will accept feedback online through 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Letters must be postmarked to the Wildlife Department by Friday to be considered.
The most notable proposal is to expand black bear hunting in southeastern Oklahoma from the current four counties where it is allowed: Latimer, Pushmataha, McCurtain and Le Flore.
The Wildlife Department is wanting to open black bear hunting during archery and muzzleloader seasons in all areas south of Interstate 40 and east of U.S. 69.
Other fish and wildlife regulation changes being proposed include opening raccoon season year-round; removing the “Record of Game” on annual hunting licenses for turkey, deer, elk, bear, antelope and paddlefish permits; and removing fish harvest and possession limits on private ponds.
All rule change proposals can be viewed online at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Tri-City Gun Club sponsors scholarship
The Tri-City Gun Club near Goldsby will be awarding a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior this spring.
Applications are now being accepted through May 31. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade-point average, provide two letters of recommendation and write a 1,000-word essay.
For more information, go to tcgc.us/scholarship.