Interest in outdoor pursuits and activities skyrocketed over the past ten months, beginning in mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a statewide lockdown and the adoption of social distancing regulations. During the spring and summer, attendance at parks, forests & beaches tripled. The Coalition and local land trusts throughout our area observed similar increases in visitorship at Bay area reserves.
In the Boston Globe, Jon Marcus wrote, “COVID-19 and the lockdowns it triggered have accelerated the degree to which other Americans started taking nature less for granted. A Harris poll in the midst of the pandemic found that 69 percent had a renewed appreciation for the outdoors.” And interest in the search term “sunset near me” reached an all-time high in 2020, according to Google’s annual report on search trends.
For many people, including the members and friends of the Coalition, appreciation of the outdoors is not new. Still, the past year has prompted many of us to set goals for 2021 that include celebrating nature in the thousands of acres of open space preserved for public access from Sakonnet Point and Westport to Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk.
We are fortunate. The Buzzards Bay region offers literally hundreds of beautiful places to explore–deep woods, fertile wetlands, freshwater ponds and streams, scenic salt marshes and beaches and the expanse of the Bay itself. Information on more than 260 beautiful spots to explore and dozens of ideas about things to do for outdoor fun can be found on our website, DiscoverBuzzardsBay.org.
And exploration of the outdoors can begin close to home. Laurel Redington, a DJ for MVYRadio and its community outreach director, said she and her husband plan to walk all the paths on their Martha’s Vineyard nature trail book. “There are so many beautiful hiking trails around the Cape and Islands, and we want to do them all. Our goal for 2021 is to start with our own backyard.”
Molly Cornell, a board member for The 300 Committee Land Trust of Falmouth, is looking to venture further from her home. “Over the past several decades, the shoreline, bays and inlets, the salt marshes and upland areas of ‘my side’ of Buzzards Bay have become very familiar,” she said.
“But much of the “other side” of the Bay, from Wareham to Westport, is less well known to me. In the new year I plan to cross the bridge more often and explore new areas, for the pleasure of new adventure and also for a better understanding of how the various watersheds contribute to the health of the Bay.”
Getting out on the water also holds great appeal. Kat Garofoli, the director of the Coalition’s Onset Bay Center, is excited about the opportunity to become a better sailor in the year ahead .”My personal resolution is to spend all of the time I can find improving my own sailing skills on all of the different boats we’ve acquired. I have absolutely fallen in love with Onset, and I cannot wait to share it under sail with as many kids and families as possible.”
Tom Richardson, the host of Explore New England, is looking toward the Westport River. “This past year has really made me appreciate all that Buzzards Bay and its watershed have to offer in terms of outdoor activities and scenic beauty. That said, there is one item that I’ll place at the forefront, and that’s paddling the entire east branch of the Westport River with my family.”
Like Richardson, some resolutions for getting outside involve companions. Skylah Reis, a member of the Coalition’s Board of Directors, is looking forward to getting to know some of the Coalition’s reserves better, with her dog.
New Bedford Public Schools teacher Simone Bourgeois broke down her outdoors resolution for 2021 into personal and professional goals–both involving others.
‘My personal resolve is to spend as much time as possible sitting on the shores of Nasketucket Bay with my grandson, Thomas, listening to the sounds of the sea,” she said.”My professional resolve is to enlighten, educate, and encourage my Sea Lab students to accept their responsibility of becoming environmental caretakers.”
That sense of responsibility for protecting the Bay also came through loud and clear from Bob Gleason, a board member of the Wareham Land Trust. “I would encourage everyone to join their local organizations and have fun getting exercise while seeing all that mother nature has to offer. You might just learn something and fun at the same time! Most importantly these organizations would not exist without our help!”