There's a Park for That

Are you tired of being cooped up inside, working from home, hiding from a public enemy no one can see?

There's a park for that. Just about everyone in Des Moines County is within a 15 or 20 minute drive of a county park. And most of those parks feature woods or trails and enough space that social distancing could be measured in acres. According to the Trust for Public Land, 47 percent of Burlington residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park. More than half of West Burlingtonians – 51 percent – have a park within a ten-minute walk. 

Further reading: How does your community rank in park access?

Are you worried about this existential threat the likes of which we've never seen and barely understand? Anxiety levels running a little high right now? Need some space now that you and your spouse are forced to work from the same coffee table?

There's a park for that.

Science tells us that some of the best treatments for anxiety include sunshine, fresh air, exercise, and exposure to a natural environment. Throughout the world, physicians have been increasingly prescribing time in parks and natural areas as treatments for such things. Yes, prescribing. Like medicine. Some places even have certified forest trails for this. Research shows exposure to natural environments can also mitigate depression and increase immune function. It’s no vaccine, but some time in the woods may be just what the doctor ordered right about now.

Further (and way fun!) reading & watching: Prescription strength nature.

And really, who needs to worry about catching the bug when you're separated by acres of the very things that have been cleaning our air for millennia?

Are you worried about your kids during this pandemic? Not that they'll catch the virus, more that they risk you finally flipping your lid the next time they barge naked into your department-wide Zoom meeting yelling “poopy!” before you can mute the mic and kill the webcam feed.

There's a park for that. Well, kind of. We don't condone running naked in the woods (at least not in public parks, anyway), but giving kids places to burn off some of that pent-up energy and cabin fever (while fully clothed) is pretty much why county parks exist.

Sick of working from your kitchen table yet? I’m writing this from a little desk tucked into the corner of our walk-in closet. The background for my web meetings is my wife’s wardrobe. What if your coworkers saw a lake and woods behind you? Or a campfire? What if you traded in that lumpy closet chair for a zero-gravity camp chair?

I don’t know about you, but I’d call that winning. And of course, there's a park for that too. The Big Hollow campground north of Burlington has Wi-Fi. So yeah, eat your heart out work-from-home coworkers. Work-from-Camp is the new fad as we isolate ourselves right into spring camping season.

Now before your throw your company laptop in the camper and head for the park, I should note here that Wi-Fi in a campground should not be counted on to be as reliable as, say, a coffee shop. Or your office. Or your closet. The campground Wi-Fi isn’t exactly designed to have 30-plus work-from-campers Skyping simultaneously. But you should be able to keep up with your emails at the very least.

And if you do decide to spend your isolation in a campground, please continue to follow the new rules of the pandemic age: Stay at least two marshmallow sticks away from others at all times. Don’t frequent areas that draw crowds such as play structures. Don’t touch hydrant handles or electric pedestals with bare hands. Wash frequently. If you’re sick, stay home. Like at your house, not your home-away-from-home RV.

Also, make note that the shower house at Big Hollow will not be open until this situation passes.

Same rules apply out in the woods and on the trails. Let other hikers know you’re approaching so you both can keep the required distance. Same goes for pets. I’m pretty sure dogs don’t get sick from coronavirus, but they could transport it to those of us that can. 
Source: National Recreation and Park Association

Yes, this situation is a mess. We are all anxious and the isolation isn't going to help. But it is, as far as I know, safe to breathe the air. So get outside. Get some exercise and some sun. Sure, you probably should avoid centralized places like playgrounds and of course maintain a safe distance from other park goers. But hiking a trail or walking in the woods or canoeing a lake offers plenty of separation. It just doesn't feel as isolating as being cooped up inside. In fact, there can be a sense of togetherness in sharing wide open spaces, even with ample social distancing.

And a little togetherness is something we could all use right now. Luckily, there's a park for that.

This is a modified piece that originally appeared in my "Living Land" column in The Hawk Eye.