As a member of the Boothbay region for more than six years and an employee of Boothbay Region Land Trust, I am well versed in the many beautiful preserves that the land trust offers, free to the public all throughout the year. However, as I write, I have a renewed appreciation for the essential resource that our public lands offer each member of our community in these uncertain times.
This renewed appreciation comes from my recent experience living overseas. Since the beginning of January, I have been fortunate to enjoy a leave of absence with my family and to work part-time remotely from Denmark. When we arrived in Europe on Jan. 1 with our two young children in tow, we were full of enthusiasm. Our plan was to spend four months in Europe, during which time our children would attend school, and we would enjoy exploring the world with them. We were living in an urban apartment in downtown Copenhagen with no yard — the city was our playground. We spent our weekdays taking trains and buses to and from school and work, and our weekends taking trains throughout the country. In a healthy society, it was a wonderful experience — new and different from the quiet life we were used to in our wooded home in Boothbay.
As the coronavirus spread, slowly at first, we began to wonder how it might impact our plans. Then, last week in a 24-hour period, everything in our lives changed. While relaxing at the end of a busy day,we received an urgent phone call that the Danish Prime Minister had shut down all schools and universities throughout the country and was recommending all non-essential workers work remotely. We realized in an instant the impact this would have for us. Suddenly my husband could not go to work and pursue the networking and research collaboration that his grant was intended to develop. Our children could no longer go to school, and moreover, we were stuck in the heart of a city in which were told not to take public transit, and not to visit public locations. The nearby playground, like all public locations, was closed to encourage social distancing. How could we possibly get any work done in a small apartment with a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old? How would our kids be able to stay sane without activity? How would it impact our own mental and physical health?
The time had come to cut our travels short and return home. While we understood that the pandemic would also shut down schools, work, and public gatherings in Maine, we had no doubt that at home in Boothbay, we could maintain a much better quality of life. One very significant factor was the access to nature that exists in our region. With plentiful public lands to explore, we knew that our family could enjoy exercise and fresh air while still practicing the necessary social distancing to keep our community safe. Moreover, connecting with nature is one of the best ways of managing stress, re-centering, and maintaining good physical and mental health. At a time when other outlets for exercise and relaxation are being restricted, hiking on BRLT trails remains a safe activity for all ages.This resource that we have makes the Boothbay peninsula a special place with advantages that have never been so important.
Boothbay Region Land Trust will continue to provide free public access to our 26 preserves throughout the region as we always have. We encourage the community to take advantage of these lands for exercise, to keep children active and learning through exploration in nature, and to de-stress and re-center. Please be considerate of other hikers on the trail by practicing social distancing. We are also working on programming that will assist families or caregivers of children, including story trails that will be rotated bi-weekly at Oak Point Farm for families to visit during the school closures. All hiking trails and guides are available on our website at bbrlt.org. At this time our visitor center at Oak Point Farm will be closed to the public, but hiking trails there will remain open, and we will continue to be available by phone and email. So take a walk, breathe deeply, and enjoy the wonder of nature as we move into spring.