NJ – 21 People Become US Citizens at Liberty State Park in July 4 Ceremony 

With the lower Manhattan skyline and the New York Harbor serving as a backdrop, 21 people became naturalized U.S. citizens in New Jersey on Monday morning.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was among the dignitaries at the Independence Day ceremony, delivering remarks after the citizens uttered the naturalization oath of allegiance at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

“This nation was made possible because of the sweat and struggle and sacrifice and blood of our ancestors,” said Booker.

Each citizen completed the naturalized process, which includes an exam.

21 People Become US Citizens at Liberty State Park in July 4 Ceremony

[NY] 21 People Become US Citizens at Liberty State Park in July 4 Ceremony

With the lower Manhattan skyline and the New York harbor serving as a backdrop, 21 people became naturalized U.S. Citzens in New Jersey on Monday morning. (Published Monday, July 4, 2016)

Among the naturalized citizens was a man from Togo who just finished basic training in the U.S. armed forces.

“The country gave you a lot so you need to give back, and I feel like that’s the only way I could give back and be useful to my country — my new country,” said Koame Toudji.

It was a momentous day for even organizer Cruz Builes, too. It was 30 years ago that she became an American citizen in the same park.

“I just get very emotional not only for us but for them, because I know what they’re going through when they take that oath and become a naturalized citizen,” she said.

[NATL] Top News Photos of the Week

The 21 new citizens come from: Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guyana, India, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland and Togo.

The ceremony is part of USCIS’ annual Independence Day celebration. More than 7,000 new U.S. citizens were welcomed in more than 100 naturalization ceremonies around the country between June 30 and July 4.

Liberty State Park is a common site for citizens to become naturalized citizens and is one of several iconic locations around the country to host the ceremonies.

Source: 21 People Become US Citizens at Liberty State Park in July 4 Ceremony | NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-Citizens-Swear-In-Liberty-Island-Statue-Of-Liberty-US-385463331.html#ixzz4DUszANsK
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CA – Assembly approves $3.1-billion park bond measure for November ballot – LA Times

Assembly approves $3.1-billion park bond measure for November ballot

A view of a blanket of clouds from Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Northern California. A report has found that the state parks department lacks a system to track spending at individual parks. (California State Parks)
A view of a blanket of clouds from Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Northern California. A report has found that the state parks department lacks a system to track spending at individual parks. (California State Parks) 

The Assembly on Thursday gave initial approval to putting a $3.1-billion bond measure on the November ballot for parks, water and climate change action.

The proposal, which next goes to the state Senate for consideration, addresses concerns that California’s parks have not been properly maintained.

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) noted that it has been 14 years since the state approved substantial new funding for park maintenance and improvements.

“We know that state parks have a deferred maintenance  backlog  of over $1 billion,” Garcia told his colleagues.

The measure was approved on a 55-14 bipartisan vote. Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon) said operators of local parks in her district would welcome the ability to compete for matching funds.

However, the measure was opposed by Brian Jones (R-Santee), who said the state could fund the parks improvements from the current budget without borrowing and there are other bonds available for water and land conservation.

“We don’t have to go into additional debt for those programs,” Jones told his colleagues. “The money is there.”

At the last minute, Garcia amended the bill to increase the bond from $2.95 billion to $3.12 billion and to increase the amount going to disadvantaged communities from 10% to 20%.

As he worked to win support, Garcia also agreed to amend his bill to earmark tens of millions of dollars to specific park programs including those in San Diego, Ventura County, Central Valley and the High Desert/Coachella area.

NE – Nebraska Platte River Parks to Receive $35-million Upgrade

Nebraska Game and Parks plans $35-million upgrade to Platte River Valley Parks

Picture yourself sledding down a toboggan run, racing downhill in a tube or big ball or zip-lining through a beautiful wooded area.

Sound fun?

Over the next four years, Nebraska Game and Parks (NGP) will be working to provide these fun outdoor experiences and more with a $35-million upgrade to four of its Platte River Valley parks.

The project is dubbed, “Nebraska’s Outdoor Venture Parks: Parks for the Next Generation.” It will involve Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Platte River State Park, Louisville State Recreation Area, all in Cass County, and Schramm State Recreation Area nearby in Sarpy County.

“The purpose of creating an Outdoor Venture Park is to meet and anticipate park visitors’ expectations of the Nebraska Game and Parks,” information about the project states. “…Families and visitors to the parks are looking for more than just a walk in the park. They want the rush of adrenaline and a sense of exhilaration of the adventures they could have at the parks.”

NGP Director Jim Douglas said the main theme of the venture parks is “nature-based play and learning.”

First Day Hikes 2016 Results

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Images from First Day Hikes

The First Day Hikes numbers for 2016 are in! Listed are the number of hikes, the number of participants, and the miles hiked for each state. Click on the following link to download the PDF: First Day Hikes 2016


We also received comments about the First Day Hikes from many states. These are stated below:



Johnson Ferry House, Washington Crossing State Park History Hike, “Ferry to Ferry” “Hi Nancy, Just a quick note to thank you for the very informative hike today. I learned so much from your talk and really appreciated all of the new information about the crossing and the history of the area and Johnson Ferry house that I learned from you today. … You brought history to life today on a cold day and I really enjoyed it.”

Bass River State Forest, First Day Hike in NJ’s First Forest “Last Friday’s First Day Hike at Bass River State Forest was wonderful.  Nothing like a breath of fresh air, a nice hike, and a compatible group of fellow trekkers to start the New Year off right! Our visit to the historic Contact Station (cabin) was a treat.  Cynthia showed us the cabin’s interior complete with an architect’s blueprint of this circa 1940 building.  The CCC “boys” did a fabulous construction job, one that I hope can be saved for future generations to enjoy.”

Warren Grove Recreation Area (Bass River State forest), “Short and Sweet” hike in the Pines Plains. “Ahhhhhh … Thirty-nine people and 4 dogs enjoyed a hearty start to the New Year hiking the NJ Pine Plains in Warren Grove.  We hiked, true to the name “Short and Sweet”, 2.5 miles.  …  We actually began our outing with an 8 AM breakfast at Lucille’s, filling the small restaurant with 25 folks in an effort to fuel our bodies for the hike.  …  Seventeen of the people on today’s hike have previously participated in previous 1st day hikes in NJ.  Youngest participant was 4 years old, oldest was 89!  Included were teachers, naturalists, retirees, botanists, college students, meteorologist, machinists,  moms, dads, grandparents, young-uns’ and one state worker  😉   Longest distance traveled [to get here] was a tie between French Creek PA and New York City, NY.   We finished our hike with pot luck snacks and socializing….. wonderful.” [Note: “short” refers not only to the length of the hike, but mostly references the very short Pigmy Pines growing in this area]



Our interesting story is this.  This year we introduced a new aspect to First Day Hikes in SC – a friendly competition between military branches to see which branch could log the most miles on First Day Hikes in SC.  This was our way of showing appreciation for the sacrifices that our military folks make so the rest of us can enjoy things like parks and First Day Hikes.  SC has bases from all 5 military branches, so we hoped we would get a good turnout.  As a USANG veteran, I’m proud to say the United State Army took the inaugural First Day Hike military competition.  We look forward to growing the program and participation next year.



  • Across the state many of our hikes started out at approx. 20 degrees below zero and “warmed up” to around 20 degrees above zero!
  • At Trinidad Lake State Park we partnered again with our local animal shelter. They bring out adoptable dogs for the hike. This year one of our adoptable dogs had just recently had a leg amputated but she did great on the hike. She was adopted just days later!
  • At Mueller State Park, an 88-year old woman has hiked their FDH each year! Her photo is attached (Doris Hall).
  • Most hikers saw wildlife tracks in the snow, including bobcat, mountain lion, deer and elk. A few parks reported sightings of bald eagles.
  • Quote: “I woke up this morning and thought, what am I doing…it’s so cold!  Then I came out here and the hike was incredible and the fresh air made it all worth it!”



  • “I really enjoyed the day. The hike was very informative as well. Thanks to you all!” –David Crockett State Park Hiker
  • “What a fantastic time we had! Beautiful scenery, enjoyed the people we walked/talked with, and led by one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” –Big Hill Pond State Park Hiker
  • “Will be back next year! Great way to bring in the new year.” – Norris Dam State Park Hiker
  • “Thank you to all the Park Rangers and staff that made this happen. We had a great time getting in some outdoor exercise.” – Henry Horton State Park Hiker