Parks Were Essential in 2020
I began Explore NC in mid-January 2020 with a simple mission: to connect people to North Carolina’s natural and built environments and to inspire people to get outside. My goal with this blog was to share our family’s adventures and the resources for exploring all that North Carolina has to offer. Little did I know two months after starting this blog that we would experience the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and it would change life as we once knew it almost overnight. Sporting events were cancelled, travel was limited, and it required a completely different way of doing things.
However, one thing that did remain and had the highest demand was parks, open space, and greenways. Parks proved essential for exercise, relaxation, and stress relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. While gyms were shut down across the state and country due to executive orders, parks and greenways remained open for exercise. It is where many people found relaxation and stress relief during an extremely stressful time.
Although my family and I took a break from traveling and exploring our local parks here in North Carolina from mid-March to mid-May due to our state’s quarantine orders, we did get back out again on the weekends beginning in mid-May with our first post-quarantine trip to Oconeechee Mountain State Natural Area in Hillsborough. It was weird to see people wearing face masks while hiking the trails, but it is the reality we lived in this year.
Our adventures continued in the summer with safe and smart trips to Oak Island near Wilmington and even a visit to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro in July. We continued exploring local parks and new nature preserves in the fall, including places like Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary and the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve east of Raleigh.
Local, state, and national parks across the country saw record numbers of visitors this year…proof that people needed time outside to help get through a difficult year. There is lots of data from many studies on the benefits and positive impacts of spending time outside. Some studies suggest just thirty minutes a day can reduce stress and help our mindset. For my family and I in 2020, it did.
As 2020 draws to a close, I am extremely grateful and thankful for our local parks, state parks, open spaces, and greenways. Some of my family’s best and happiest memories this year were the trips to our local parks and playgrounds. Parks helped my family and I get through a difficult year. We plan to continue exploring new places across North Carolina in 2021 when it is safe to do so and I will continue to share our experiences from those places through this blog site.
To those reading this blog and who have read my blog posts this year, Thank You! Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year in 2021. Happy Trails! 🙂