As 2021 begins, we still find ourselves amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we may feel uncertainty and apprehension about the year ahead, there is one thing we can control in these unprecedented times: we can spend time in nature.
Nature, sometimes referred to as Vitamin N, can improve both mental and physical health, and is linked to happiness and well-being.
If you don’t yet have a 2021 New Year’s resolution, might I suggest increasing your Vitamin N exposure?
You don’t need to go far to enjoy the benefits of Vitamin N in the greater Peterborough area. In fact, having indoor plants, a street tree in front of your home, or a backyard garden are all considered nearby nature.
Enjoying nearby nature can also include running along the Rotary Greenway Trail, walking the Lakefield Millennium Trail, or skating on the Trent Canal (check this page on the City of Peterborough’s website to find out whether the ice is safe for skating).
During the winter, the Peterborough Nordic Club (peterboroughnordic.com) maintains a cross-country ski trail in beautiful Jackson Park.
The ski trail is set on the four-kilometre stretch of public trail that travels through the centre of the park. While it is free to access, consider purchasing a membership or offering a donation to support the dedicated volunteers who maintain this course.
North of the city, past Burleigh Falls, is the Kawartha Nordic Ski Club (kawarthanordic.ca) where you will find nine kilometres of snowshoe trails and 46 kilometres of cross-country ski trails. If you need equipment, they have rentals available.
Many of Kawartha Land Trust’s trails are also open to the public, even in the winter,
“Kawartha Land Trust has a beautiful mix of properties ranging from mixed forests to wetlands,” says Patricia Wilson, community conservation coordinator with the non-profit land conservation organization. “Most are open for the public to explore and enjoy.”
“If you’re an avid hiker I would highly recommend the Stony Lake Trails,” Wilson adds. “You’ll experience beautiful views of the lake, cross stunning wetlands and forested areas, and encounter open meadow thickets. You may even meet some deer along the way!”
As well as the Stony Lake Trails, you can visit John Earle Chase Memorial Park Trails, the Ballyduff Trails, and Cation Wildlife Preserve.
For those unfamiliar with Kawartha Land Trust, Wilson suggests visiting the protected properties page on the organization’s website at kawarthalandtrust.org for descriptions of each property including access to downloadable maps.
Numerous other organizations maintain natural spaces for our enjoyment. Visit the Otonabee Conservation website (otonabeeconservation.com) and municipal parks and recreation web pages for more local nature destinations.
While exploring our natural areas, please remember that they are home to many wildlife species. Maintain a “leave no trace” ethic by staying on designated trails and leaving nothing behind.
Discarded waste — like dog poop, toilet paper, snack wrappers, disposable masks, and plastic water bottles — can pollute waterways and harm wildlife. While winter snow may hide these things, they do not go away; they resurface again in the spring to do damage.
Dog poop and human waste are especially harmful. They can contain the illness-causing E. coli bacteria that can make its way into rivers and lakes.
As well as being harmful, waste can take away from the experience of other outdoor enthusiasts. Carry all your waste out with you or dispose of it in a provided garbage receptacle. Use on-site washrooms or wait until you can get to one.
If you’d like to go a step further and give back to our beautiful natural areas, then consider conducting your own garbage clean-up during your outdoor adventure.
The next time you go out for a stroll or a hike, bring medical gloves (or a trash picker) and a garbage bag. If you find waste that is safe to pick up, put it in a bag and take it with you. Dispose of it in a provided public waste receptacle or transport it home to your own garbage bin.
If you can, safely clean recyclable items such as plastic water bottles and beer cans and place them in your blue bin for curbside pickup.
If you find used needles while exploring nature don’t touch them. They are not safe to handle. If they are on public property in the City of Peterborough, contact Public Works at 705-745-1386. If found in Peterborough County, call the OPP at 705-742-0401.
With these suggestions in mind, it’s time to get out there and take in some good old Vitamin N! Go and enjoy the health and wellness benefits of nature while leaving natural areas clear of garbage.
You will feel great, the wildlife will thank you, and fellow trail users will enjoy their walk as you did!