Outdoor Mental Health
Dan Onion, MD, MPH
Mt. Vernon/Vienna Health Officer
I am sitting at my computer, having prepared for the patients I see tomorrow morning, looking out my window at a sunny, beautiful fall day. I’ve got to get out there and will shortly.
Such feelings are considered nearly universal and healthy by recent credible scientific publications. Even a few minutes in nature, let alone a few hours a day, have been correlated with people’s mood improvements. Soul soothing by fields, trees and water, works. We are fortunate to live where we do. Despite disturbing news about local and national events, man-made and otherwise, we have many opportunities to treat ourselves this, Tom Ward’s metroplex. And those opportunities are increasing gradually by many local improvements and projects. Two come to mind immediately.
The 30 Mile River Watershed Association (30 Mile) (read about it at http://30mileriver.org/) purchased a bunch of kayaks with a grant last summer. The organization has been loaning them out for free to locals, kids and adults, this summer to help them “treat” themselves by kayaking our lakes and streams. The association hopes to help young and old experience the peace and fascination we all can find paddling around. The first selectwoman of Mt Vernon watches over the swim beach, and calls for help from 30 Mile’s Lidie Robbins, when she spots some reddish-brown stuff floating in the water there.
Meanwhile, over on Parker Pond, 25 friends of the pond have put in hundreds of hours fixing the Loon Island cabin there, which needed extensive repair after nearly 100 years of use by the public. About 50 years ago, the Parker Pond islands were donated to the state of Maine’s Department of Conservation (DOC) by the Central Maine Power Company. Loon is one of four Parker islands with public, DOC campgrounds open to the public all year; the others are Spruce, Bill’s (named for local guide Bill Nurse), and Birch. Locals or visitors can stay for up to 2 weeks. Ice fishermen warm up over Loon’s wood stove. Fishermen staying there from New Jersey last year cut blow downs into firewood for future users. Each island also has a primitive toilet. The loon island camp has been permanently jacked up a couple feet to prevent sill rot. The porch has been re-floored, and rotten siding now being replaced and repainted. Check it out sometime. The Parker Pond Association web site (http://www.parkerpond.org/) has pictures.
And those are just a couple things that I know about that have been accomplished recently to improve access to the natural world around us; I’m confident there are many others. Enjoy a walk or paddle soon and often. You’ll be healthier for it.