Bilingual Ranger Julian Segovia leading a seine net program for Latinx youth
Credit: Will Grinnell/Chesapeake Conservancy
Ahhhhh, June! With the turn of the calendar comes the end of the school year; the beginnings of longer, warmer days and firefly-visited, starry nights; the flip-flopped or bare-footed, jacketless lightness; and a new array of activity choices. Hopefully, those choices are mostly outdoors, where fresh air, clean water, green settings, and sun-provided vitamin D are plentiful. The benefits of time spent outdoors are myriad, for all ages: from physical exercise and mental rejuvenation to development of eyesight, gross and fine motor skills, and focused attention. Research abounds that supports the value of outdoor settings not solely for recreation, but also for learning, life skills, sense of place, and health and well-being. Of course, we need the places—protected lands, made available and accessible to all. Public lands throughout the Bay watershed and all of America provide us with quality, diverse landscapes to enjoy, while helping us to combat the threat of climate change.
“…Nature makes kids happier, healthier, and smarter.” -The Children & Nature Network
Fittingly, June is celebrated nationwide as Great Outdoors Month, an annual event sponsored by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. This year it has the added distinction of a Presidential Proclamation. Several states have proclaimed the designation in their own jurisdiction, and numerous related events occur in alignment. This year June 5-13 was National Fishing & Boating Week, simultaneous with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week with a recreation theme. State parks throughout the watershed have lined up a host of activities and events; the National Park Service (NPS) participates in several of these activities, including National Trails Day, held the first Saturday in June and sponsored by the American Hiking Society. National Get Outdoors Day is held annually on the second Saturday, coordinated along with the US Forest Service offering free entry to several National Forests. Juneteenth (on the 19th), a holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery, offers an additional time for reflection and rejoicing that can highlight nature’s role in our heritage, such as freedom seekers’ reliance on nature to navigate the Underground Railroad. The National Wildlife Federation promotes the Great American Backyard Campout (June 26). Maryland State Parks are once again offering Es Mi Parque events focused on building relationships with Latinx visitors, beginning this year June 26 at Sandy Point State Park, with additional events in July and August at other parks. Throughout the watershed, various sites host kids’ fishing derbies and free fishing days, special interest programs, and opportunities for volunteering to give back to the parks through service. And those are only a sampling. Events such as these can go a long way toward raising awareness, welcoming participants, and promoting the endless fun and beneficial outdoor activities available and the places we treasure—which in turn builds further, widespread support for conservation.
Canoeing at Yards Park on the Anacostia River
Credit: Ariel Trahan/Anacostia Watershed Society
Looking for a great spot to visit or recommend for celebrating and recreating this month? Though it seems impossible to fathom, many Bay watershed residents might not know about all of the great places we work hard to protect and make available. Find Your Park and Find Your Chesapeake are great resources. There’s also this story map that can be used to Get Kids Outside in Maryland, and it can be a model for other jurisdictions. It was developed by the state Department of Transportation to show not only the available green spaces but also how you can get to them—by car, bus, bike, or foot—and their proximity to schools, to find sites to use for outdoor environmental learning. The same tool can help to highlight gaps in available green spaces and routes to access them, to assist with decision-making and resource allocation.
In any given year, this is a time to celebrate the newfound freedoms that the coming summer season brings. In 2021, it is even more significant, as we are cracking out of our shell (timely cicada reference intended) from the pandemic, and gathering with a few friends and family for fun and frolic feels joyously fresh. Throughout the past 15 months, we have all shared in a laser focus on health and have watched the widespread public recognition of the value of access to the outdoors rise to record heights. And it has occurred simultaneously with a long-overdue awareness of inequities among people and communities—disparities in health care, access to green space, and other resources. This is more than a time to reflect. It is perhaps an historic moment for caregivers, health practitioners, educators, recreation providers, land conservationists and managers, planners, community partners, funders, and equity allies to come together around an important question: How can we bring all of our respective disciplines and resources to bear, in order to perpetuate and sustain the spotlight on the outdoors as a critical human need? It is a call for this community of professionals to work together across disciplines as never before to not only sustain that spotlight, but to use it to guide programs, decisions, and partnerships to make significant change for the future.
Kids fishing on a pier at Masonville Cove in Baltimore
Credit: Genevieve LaRouche/US Fish and Wildlife Service
To that end, CCP’s new public health goal and associated action plan is a timely effort to work strategically and collectively to connect the dots among land and water conservation, public access, recreation, education, stewardship, diversity, and health. It addresses primarily financing and technical assistance that can help the field as a whole to achieve uplifts in equitable access to green space to benefit people’s health. Though the ultimate goal is to support public health “for all,” the actions center on an urgent need to focus on aiding under-resourced communities of color in both urban and rural areas. By increasing parks, trails, and other green spaces in under-resourced communities, we also make progress in achieving another key CCP goal: conserving 30% of valuable lands in the Bay watershed by 2030. With the partnership members rowing in the same direction and beginning with service to those who need the most assistance, we will together get ever closer to achieving the goal to protect, conserve, and enhance lands that support public health for all.
More resources to read, use and share:
- 5 Ways Bay Restoration Influences Your Health
- Making the outdoors more accessible to the Chesapeake’s Latinx communities
- Six Black-led organizations changing the face of outdoor recreation
- If you’re looking to get out on the water this summer, visit one of these newer public access sites for opportunities to fish, swim, boat and enjoy the great outdoors.
- Use your phone to help you explore the Chesapeake Bay watershed and beyond with these apps.
- The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook highlights successful bipartisan policy initiatives and provides resources to support new statewide efforts to build healthy communities through solutions for increasing youth engagement in the outdoors.
Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at success.chesapeakeconservation.org, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.