How great is it to have our local parks and trails reopening? After a few months of staying home or laying low, we are finally able to get out and hike, walk, paddle, or stroll in our favorite parks and natural areas. We all know that getting outside is important – it’s a way to care well for ourselves with fresh air, exercise, and a connection to nature.
Spending time in nature is good for mental health and physical health and can even help boost our immune system.
As restrictions lift and we are able to plan for beach walks, hikes, and visits to other natural areas, we need to remember it is important to take care of ourselves and our fellow adventurers, and also to take care of the natural areas we visit. This summer is not like past summers; our outdoor adventures will require more careful planning. Some of our parks, trails, and waysides may not have the same level of services they used to. It is up to us to do our part to make sure they remain the clean, healthy places we love – and that we stay healthy while visiting them.
Taking care of our natural areas has always been important, but stewardship is especially important now. The definition of stewardship is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” The U.S. Forest Service is considering closing some areas because of the amounts of garbage, toilet paper (and related waste), tree cutting, and additional damaging activities. These lands and open space belong to all of us and we are responsible for helping take care of them.
Here are some tips to make sure you have a safe outdoor adventure while protecting the parks, trails, or other outdoor spaces you visit:
- Plan ahead and be prepared.
o Make sure the site you plan to visit is open before you head out, and you should have a back-up plan in case it is closed or too crowded when you get there. Plan weekday outings when possible.
o Pack food, drinking water, hand sanitizer and any other supplies you might need.
o Keep in mind some services (like restrooms, drinking fountains, or trash cans) may not be available and plan ahead for that.
- Stay safe.
o Stay in small groups; ideally, your outdoor activity should include just the people in your household. Maintain a safe distance (6-10 feet) from other people not in your group.
o Wear a mask or other face covering in public spaces.
o Wash your hands thoroughly and often or sanitize hands as needed, especially before eating.
o Stay home if you are feeling sick.
- Leave no trace.
o Bring along a trash bag and pack out all your trash and garbage. Leave the trail/beach/park as (or better than) you found it.
o Remember, some area parks may not have the same resources they once had so it’s up to all of us to help take care of the places we love.
o Thank park rangers and other staff when you see them. They are working hard to make these spaces available for use under very challenging circumstances.
We know you want to get out and Explore Your Outdoors, and Tillamook County Wellness is working on a plan to help you have a little extra fun while you’re at it. Stay tuned to @Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest for details coming soon!
Here are some helpful resources for making sure you are prepared for your next outdoor adventure:
- Oregon State Parks: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/
- Recreate Responsibly: https://www.recreateresponsibly.org/
In the meantime, let’s all take the Tillamook Coast Pledge so we are ready to be safe and responsible while enjoying our beautiful and beloved open spaces:
For more local health and wellness information, visit tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.