Richard Louv, in his 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our children from Nature Deficit Disorder”, lamented a loss of connection between children and their natural surroundings in America. He has since updated and re-published the book with suggestions as to what communities might do to help address what he sees as a national issue. So where do we think Marblehead stands?
After a dozen years of restoring open spaces and the trails within and supporting schools and other institutions with related interests, the Conservancy is pleased to report results showing that when the ways and the means are provided, children’s involvement with nature will come. Here, in our small densely populated seaside town, both open spaces and, most importantly, usage of those spaces have grown significantly.
In the summer, class leaders from the local YMCA bring groups of preschool children into the Forest River conservation area to see and draw pictures of what they find. Trails in Wyman Woods, Seaside Park, and Steer Swamp become training grounds for school cross-country track teams. The Hamond Recreation Center at the edge of Wyman Woods, is the site for a summer camp run by Mass. Audubon, a starting point for the young to learn and experience the flora and fauna around them. Girl and Boy Scout Troops of all levels use the several sites available for exploring as well as helping to restore native plantings. And these are just some of the group activities centered on children.
With open space areas sprinkled around the entire town, many residents are within short walking distance from being able to separate themselves, however briefly, from residential streets and breathe a different air. Walk any of the five miles of trails in our conservation areas or another four and a half miles of the old rail bed and you are likely to meet several others doing the same thing – adults as well as children. If you happen to run into one of our maintenance or teaching crews, ask what we are doing. Awareness of open space activity is part of what we do.