The New Year brings with it ample opportunities to make resolutions and to ponder the road less traveled. There are the traditional resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, get more organized, and to manage time more effectively (all of which I have made for 2008 as well by the way). I want to propose, both to myself and to those reading this, that this year another resolution be considered and adopted. This year resolve to make 2008 a Florida Year.And what is this “Florida Year” you ask? I propose that 2008 be a year in which all of us fall in love with, or renew our passion for, Florida. Florida history, Florida culture, Florida’s odd and eccentric ways and people, and most of all Florida’s great outdoors and wild places all offer opportunities to connect to the place that we live in and discover more about the world around us.A sense of place grounds us to our communities, our families, and our region. Whether you’re a fifth generation Floridian as my wife is, or you just rolled across the Georgia border in search of sunshine and the Florida Dream, connecting to Florida offers adventure and an opportunity to find magic in what others merely see as backdrop or scenery.In 2008 get out there. Get out on the rivers and bays, get out on the trails and dirt roads. Look for where the paved road ends and seek out places where you need a map or a trail guide to find your way home. There is something intoxicating about seeking out that next bend in the river, that next curve of the trail and seeing something new and never known to you before. When the road shifts from paved to dirt you are heading in the right direction.We are blessed in the Tampa Bay region with numerous places to, from the pocket parks in Tampa along the Hillsborough River to the backcountry of Colt Creek State Park in Polk County, get out there and reconnect with Florida and with nature. Public lands are sacred treasures and they provide places of sanctuary for wildlife to live and places for us to nourish our souls. Open spots on the map, those amazing greenspaces devoid of roads, houses, malls, and development, should serve to draw us in to learn what is there and what we have been missing.A Florida Year is a year of exploring, enjoying, and protecting all things Florida. Once you get out there and see the woods, the rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico the next step is to spend some time being a voice for places that have given so freely to those who seek them out. Naturalist and writer John Muir realized in 1892 that to get Californians to fall in love with the Sierra Nevada range he needed to get folks out there to climb the mountains and swim the creeks. Once they tasted the earth and saw the sunsets they would be connected to preserving those places. That realization led to the founding of the Sierra Club.I hope to lose some weight this year, and I surely could be better organized. With that said my strongest and most important resolution is to fall in love again with Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and to share this love and passion with others. We love what we know, and we work to protect what we love.So, make 2008 a “Florida Year” and think about connections and place. Ponder the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico, and the magic of all things wild and free in Florida. Get out there and find the pathways that are in your heart, and under your feet. That is a resolution worth keeping.Joe Murphy is the Florida Programs Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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