Picnic fosters a sense of community
BI attended my first Genesee Valley Conservancy annual member picnic this past weekend. It was held on the 600-plus permanently-protected acres of the A-On-Do-Wa-Nuh Sportsman’s Club in Leicester, where those gathered could gaze across a seemingly endless expanse of valley vistas sporting frilly-topped trees and velvety green fields.
As I circulated around the lawn and among the guests at the picnic, I was struck by what a friendly and familiar sort our GVC supporters are. Being with them was as comfortable as slipping into a pair of favorite jeans.
Interestingly, when I admired the pleasant color of a gentleman’s crisply pressed shirt, he informed me that it had matured to its present rosy hue over the 20 years he had been wearing it. We agreed that well made things tend to hold up and are worth keeping. Conservation words to live by.
Another thing I’ve noticed about many of the folks I’ve met here is that they are not trying to impress anyone. They are not striving for what they do not have and seem to value what they already have, both individually and as a community. They recycle. They volunteer for, support and sustain not only each other but also the groups and organizations that matter to them.
I’ve been told over and over that GVC is one of those much-valued organizations, and it pleases me to think that our land trust is so community-supported. Genesee Valley residents seem to be right where they want to be geographically and in life.
The people here can step outside to see their green valley, then turn 180 degrees and see more green valley. It’s unacceptable to them to allow this treasured landscape ever to disappear to future over-development.
At the picnic, GVC President Myrtle Merritt spoke about the health benefits of an activity that’s been newly coined as “forest bathing.”
This is a phenomenon whereby scientists have provided research on the actual health advantages to walking in a forest. We’re not talking about spiritual or emotional benefits, which have long been applauded but are more ephemeral. This is measurable stuff like lowered blood pressure.
Land conservation always contains a public benefit component. It may be in the form of something you see, or something unseen, of preserving habitat for wildlife and plant life, agriculture, open space and scenic qualities, historical and cultural aspects to the land.
One overwhelming public benefit provided by the natural world is the production of oxygen for the air we breathe. And now we have the idea of taking a kind of healing bath in nature, which is, to me, one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of my career in conservation.
Picture this. You wake up just a little cranky. You literally got up on the wrong side of the bed, and you are not feeling especially energetic. Maybe you should take a nature bath. Go out to Indian Fort, or the Island Preserve and see what the plants, trees and peaceful trails have to offer you.
I’m not promising anything, just suggesting a new way of looking at the preserves our GVC members have helped make possible. These are special natural places set aside for everyone to explore and enjoy. I could sit on the nearby bench and bathe all day long in the soothing waterfall sounds at Indian Fort!
When I looked around the GVC picnic, I saw a collection of people who care about their community and the land it inhabits. Many of them had placed conservation easements on their beautiful properties, preserving open space, habitat and farmland for future generations who will live here.
When, as the relatively new Executive Director, I was asked to say a few words to the GVC members, I thanked them for their important grass roots support which fuels the conservancy work.
I also recalled something I’d read about tight-knit communities and how they foster healthier lifestyles and longer lives. Maybe it has something to do with those refreshing forest and field baths we didn’t even realize we were enjoying!
Sally Walker is the Executive Director of the Genesee Valley Conservancy, a nationally accredited land trust based in Geneseo which has helped protect more than 13,500 acres of habitat, greenspace and farmland throughout the Genesee Valley. If you have any questions about conservation you’d like addressed, or if you’d like to learn more about conserving your land, send me an email.