OAKLAND -- January and resolutions seem natural partners with many New Year's goals revolving around finding ways to get healthier. Physical activity is a good way to start, and what better way than doing that activity outside in the parks of the East Bay Regional Park District, as a means to improve health and well-being?

Since 2012, the district has promoted its Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative with the goal of raising awareness about the symbiotic value of health and parks. The park district hopes to increase utilization of the parks by offering programs and volunteer opportunities that encourage a connection with nature through physical activity, social connection and overall wellness.

So for 2014, why not adjust that "get healthier" resolution to include participating and playing in the open spaces of the East Bay Regional Park District. Make sure this resolution involves everyone -- all ages. You're never too young or too old to play outdoors.

Oakland hills residents have their pick among five regional parks -- Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Redwood Regional Park, Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and Temescal Regional Park -- with a cornucopia of activities, hikes and volunteer projects throughout January and February, more than enough to feel fit while enjoying the outdoors and giving back.


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It's never too early to bring children into nature and Hikes for Tykes is an ideal way to enjoy nature with your child, wandering over hill and dell on a mile walk to explore flora and fauna, on Feb. 4 at Temescal and on Feb. 18 at Skyline Staging Area of Redwood Park.

Saturday and Sunday Strolls were developed to start the day in nature, on your own or with the entire family. Each week, a different park or area within a park is explored on a two-to-five-mile hike, discovering new habitats and the wildlife within. Jan. 11 finds hikers at Skyline Staging Area of Redwood Park, enjoying a search for overwintering ladybugs on a moderate three-mile loop. On Feb. 2, the scene shifts to Canyon Meadows Staging Area within Redwood, where an easy two-mile walk through redwoods looks for banana slugs, mushrooms and newts.

A valentine volcano-style walk takes place Feb. 9 at Sibley Volcanic Preserve. During this moderate 2.6-mile walk, hikers will search out amorous salamanders, wander through mazes and enjoy views of Mt. Diablo. A moderate four-mile forest walk takes place Feb. 23 at Roberts Regional Recreation Area where homage will be paid to wonderful oaks, redwoods and bay trees.

The schedule shifts midweek for Wednesday Walks, just the ticket for hikers of all abilities to explore new trails, get in some healthy activity and make new friends. On Jan. 29, the hike commences at Redwood Bowl in Redwood Park, a chance to partake in a moderately strenuous 3.5-mile loop to climb to the top of 1,642-foot Redwood Peak.

The limelight shifts to small-sized wildlife on two February activities at Skyline Staging Area of Redwood Park. On Feb. 8, a short hike along the forest floor searches for interesting banana slugs, and a Valentine-weekend Feb. 15 walk focuses on those amorous bugs of love, the ladybug beetles.

Joining in on volunteer projects is a two-way benefit, working toward both healthy bodies and healthy parks. The park district faces many challenges maintaining nearly 113,000 acres of open spaces and one of the greatest is the threat of invasive plants. Volunteers help remove these plants from parks before they get established. A French Broom removal and restoration project takes place on both Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Volunteers can join park staff protect the park from the invasion of this prolific non-native.

IF YOU GO
All activities in this story are drop-in and free. More information, including times and age levels, can be found in the January-February edition of the Regional in Nature Activity Guide: http://www.ebparks.org/features/rin.
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve: Skyline Boulevard, 888-327-2757, ext. 4532. For registration and information on volunteer projects sibley@ebparks.org, 510-544-3112.
Redwood Regional Park: 7867 Redwood Road, 888-327-2757, ext. 4553. For registration and information on volunteer projects redwood@ebparks.org, 510-482-6024.
Roberts Regional Recreation Area: 10570 Skyline Blvd., 888-327-2757, ext. 4555
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve: 6800 Skyline Blvd., 888-327-2757, ext. 4554. For registration and information on volunteer projects sibley@ebparks.org, 510-544-3112.
Temescal Regional Park: 6502 Broadway Terrace, 510-652-1155.