Letter: Shelter with space
Three weeks ago, “social distancing”, “shelter in place” and “self quarantine” weren’t a part of our everyday vernacular. Three weeks ago we were talking about long lift lines, upcoming spring adventures and what concerts we had tickets for. Three weeks ago, life was different.
Today we’re seeing state ordinances and federal mandates, and the interpretations thereof change by the hour. It seems there is no singular voice guiding our community on how to navigate these ordinances to keep people safe, and how they might be interpreted differently in different communities.
We’re told to stay-at-home and isolate; however, if isolation is the guiding principle, then are our forests not a great place to guide us towards? If we’re encouraged to get outside and exercise while practicing social distancing, why not head for the hills?
While much of our local forest and wilderness areas lend themselves to increased solitude, most access points are well known. This leads to an inadvertent risk of congregation, at least while near trailheads and parking areas. It seems that there is plenty of accessible public land and that we should be able to come together and make this work, but it also seems at odds with what we’re being directed to do.
How can we, as a mountain community, balance the importance of getting outside to the importance of socially distancing and keeping our community safe?
John Muir famously penned, “To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of the wilderness.” But maybe too many people are traveling to the same streams.
Perhaps it’s as simple as a putting a radius around cities that provides a parameter on how far anyone should travel to safely reach their own private wilderness experience or steering people to trails that may be underutilized in order to disperse use throughout the week or educating communities on different recreational opportunities that may exist closer to where they live.
Or perhaps the severity of our situation has not yet been digested, and until it is, people just won’t get the message. I hope that we can work together to find the right solution for balancing the importance of mental and physical health with the importance of social distancing and isolation, and the role that the outdoors plays in both.
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