To the Editor:

Spending time in nature has abundant physical and emotional benefits. It has been shown to lower stress levels, improve working memory, reduce depression, and combat hypertension, among many other benefits. For children especially, access to the outdoors is so important to mental and physical health.

Studies show that children who spend time in nature feel more connected to nature later in life and have more positive attitudes about environmental sustainability. Being in nature provides “safe risks” for children; unstructured play outdoors is creative, surprising, and fosters independence.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, children are spending less and less time outside. In fact, Americans spend 87% of their time indoors. On average, children in the U.S. spend only 30 minutes of unstructured time outdoors each week. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free and unstructured play is essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones.

The mission of the Darien Nature Center is to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the natural world. We want to get people outside to soak in the sights, sounds, and wonders of nature!

This spring, we completed the first phase of our “Clear the Path” project to clear the trails and remove dangerous trees behind our building in Cherry Lawn Park. We invite you to visit the improved trails by crossing over the new bridge, which was built and designed by volunteer Chris Filmer. Leave your worries behind and enter the calm of the woods. Spend meaningful time with your family or friends, and enjoy the peaceful solitude.

The volunteer support for the trail clearing project has been incredible, but we still need your help! The second phase of the project is to build a handicap accessible trail that will make the woods available to all people in our community.

Join me in supporting our important mission by donating to our “Clear the Path” campaign today. All donors will be listed on a permanent display at the trailhead, marking your commitment to the outdoors and our community’s enthusiasm for nature in all its glory. As a non-profit, we rely solely on our generous donors and our programming to fund our organization. To see the various ways you can contribute, visit our website (www.dariennaturecenter.org).

Liz Parks

Board of Directors, Darien Nature Center

Darien