The sun is out, at least some of the time. Temperatures are rising, every so often. Spring flowers are blooming. We’d all like to spend time outdoors. But how to do that, in the midst of a viral pandemic?
Chicago Wilderness, a regional alliance that leads strategy to preserve, improve, and expand nature and quality of life, recently posted guidelines on how to interact safely with one another in the outdoors. Here is part of their message:
Nature and COVID-19
As we deal with the constantly changing reality of coping with COVID-19, Chicago Wilderness reminds you that nature is always here for you.
Nature offers us many benefits: wondrous places to explore, as well as opportunities for learning and discovery. Healthy ecosystems also provide us with essential services—such as fresh air, clean water, healthy soil, flood protection, and pollution filtering—that underpin our economy.
Most importantly, in these unprecedented times, appreciating nature—whether from a trail, your backyard, or through your window—is critical to your physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. If you do go outdoors, please follow any local restrictions that are in place.
As reported in the Chicago Tribune, here are some tips from Teresa H. Horton, an associate professor of research in the anthropology department at Northwestern University, and Suzanne Bartlett-Hackenmiller, an OB-GYN and Integrative Medicine physician at the Van Diest Family Health Clinic in Webster City, Iowa:
- Getting outdoors exposes us to fresh air and sunshine.
- Planting flowers or vegetables or pulling weeds in our gardens provides a sense of caring for the future and tending to life.
- Viewing the complex patterns of trees and grasses and the expanse of nature engages parts of our brain in a sense of awe and fascination.
- Organic compounds released from some plants, especially coniferous trees, boost immunity by stimulating our own natural killer cells that attack viruses.
- Exposure to sunshine promotes vitamin D production, which enhances immune function.
So How to Do It?
All parks east of Lake Shore Drive are closed. Mayor Lightfoot closed the Lakefront Trail, the 606 Trail and the Riverwalk on March 26. Parts of Lincoln Park that saw large crowds on nice days also are closed. Those who visit these areas face a $500 fine.
State parks, however, opened on May 1. To get the latest news about which parks are open and which are not, check with the Field Museum's Keller Science Action Center. KSAC also advises that outdoorsy types get the latest news on what's open and how to safely enjoy Chicagoland's green spaces by referring to the following agencies:
- Forest Preserves of Cook County website and Twitter feed
- Chicago Park District website and Twitter feed
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources
- National Recreation and Park Association