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Yorkers have always been known as hard workers, pragmatists, nose to the grindstone sorts. No frills, keep costs low, make do with what you have.

But 50 years ago, some of those highly practical Yorkers got together and decided the county needed some spaces where people could just soak in the greenery and the fresh air, and they established the York County Parks.

In 1968, York County bought its first park land, 760 acres in Springettsbury Township that became Rocky Ridge County Park. It was followed the same year by Richard Nixon County Park, which was established on land donated by York Barbell CEO Bob Hoffman on the condition that he be allowed to name the park. Apollo County Park came along the next year.

The county parks system continues to grow and improve. Now there are 11 designated York County Parks, spread across the county, the most recent one, Native Lands County Park in Lower Windsor Township, established in 2009. 

The county parks are a treasure for residents, providing everything from the wild spaces of Apollo and Raab parks to the soccer fields at Rudy County Park. You can spend the day canoeing on Lake Redman in William Kain County Park or learn more about the land at the Nixon County Park Nature Center.

You can even ride a bike 25 miles along the Heritage Rail Trail, established in 1990 and still being expanded today, with a two-mile stretch from York City to Route 30 underway.

Dog lovers take their canine companions to Canine Meadows at Rudy Park, where they can run around and play without leashes. Bird watchers can stop at the observation decks at Rocky Ridge to see hawks migrating in the fall. History buffs can tour the Hanover Junction and New Freedom train stations and participate in talks there, or they can go to the Wallace-Cross Mill for a step back in time.

P. Joseph Raab County Park is home to an iron ore mine and four species of bats, along with a collection of tall tales. Spring Valley Park offers trails and ring for horses. 

And don't forget Christmas Magic, which brings thousands of people to Rocky Ridge through the holiday season each year.

Yes, there have been controversies over the years. The purchase of Highpoint Scenic Overlook in 2008 was met with skepticism, to say the least. The completion of the Heritage Rail Trail has taken a long time. 

But as a county, we need these parks. Yes, they bring in money through events and recreational activities. But more than that, they help preserve the beauty of York County and give residents a place to breathe deeply and enjoy the outdoors.

So happy 50th anniversary to the York County Parks. Let's hope they continue to shine for the next 50 years.

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