When you hear the words “nature” or “outdoors,” what does that mean to you?
When I was a child, I lived upstairs from my grandparents in a double house in Cleveland, Ohio. The section of yard with grass was about the size of a postage stamp, and the rest consisted of driveway. I spent many hours of play outside with friends climbing the tree that grew in an empty lot down the road, playing kickball in the street, or riding bikes. There were small playgrounds nearby, but we could drive for miles and miles, seeing nothing but concrete and patches of grass.
It was a great treat when my family went to the Metro Parks for a picnic. The Cleveland Metro Parks System consists of 18 park reservations spanning 23,000+ acres which form a “necklace” around the City of Cleveland. It is referred to as the “Emerald Necklace.” Thank goodness for the Metro Parks, where we could breathe in the beauty of nature.
Moving to Athens gave my husband and me a chance to experience living outside of a big city. We built a home in West Limestone on 7 acres. I enjoyed watching the birds come to our feeders and logged each new species I saw. When my granddaughters visited, we would sit at the window and search the bird books together. It was exciting to see the deer play or watch the turkeys make their way across our property. I was truly a city girl in awe of having nature visit my back yard.
I am grateful for the forward thinking people who reserved land around Cleveland for those of us living in the “concrete jungle.” Here in Limestone County, I am grateful to those who have worked so hard and continue their efforts to create the “Rails to Trails” and the walking trail in Athens, as well as the Mayor’s appreciation of green space in future planning. As Athens, Madison, and Huntsville continue to grow toward each other, we run the risk of losing easy access to the wonders of nature.
The loss of land to “progress” also means wildlife find the space they share to be crowded and move into populated areas to find food and shelter.
So what can we as individuals do? First, let’s make sure our children turn off the electronics and go outside. Fresh air and sunshine are good for the body and soul. An appreciation for nature must be nurtured. Let’s take time to go on nature hikes or stroll on local trails to refresh ourselves and remember why we need to care about our environment. As you walk, stop to inspect the plant life, search for insects, talk to your children and grandchildren about the miracle of a tree, the importance of bees and bats to crop production, or how we rely on our Elk River for our drinking water.
The following quotes were from papers written by a class of 8-year-olds when they were asked “What is a Grandparent” and published anonymously. I found the following three to be so telling.
• “When they take us for walks, they slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars.”
• “They show us and talk to us about the colors of the flowers and also why we shouldn’t step on cracks.”
• “They don’t say, ‘Hurry up.'”
Don’t deny your children the precious gift of time spent outside together.
At home, you can create gardens that provide the native plants that welcome birds, bees, butterflies, and bunnies. Native plants are “built” for the area and require less care than non-native plants. There is a great deal of information on the internet regarding what is native to this area and the wildlife they will attract. One of the local nurseries would also be a great resource.
So much of nature is in the hands of the human race. As individuals, we can’t fix it all. We can, however, teach upcoming generations of children how it all ties together, how every creature on this planet (big, small, and microscopic) rely on one another. Maybe along the way we will awaken our own love of nature and concern for the environment.
Here are a few websites that have great information on outdoor activities:
Parks and Recreation in Limestone County (includes the Elk River Canoe & Kayak Trail and Rails to Trails): http://www.limestoneparks.com/
Alabama State Parks: http://alapark.com/
Land Trust of North Alabama: http://www.landtrustnal.org/
By: Lynne Hart