Getting out of the house was pretty hard for a lot of people last year. Over the last year, more people than ever have been running their lives almost exclusively from home; computers quickly became the main way they accessed their work, education, entertainment, relationships, and even personal trainers! Home gyms are practically the “norm” these days.
Through it all, however, it seems that people were able to prioritize reconnecting with nature – at least in Maine, anyway.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Bureau of Park and Lands announced that more than 3 million people visited Maine’s state parks in 2020. That’s more visitors than ever before!
Disconnecting and Reconnecting
It’s safe to assume that between working from home, online learning, virtual “dates”, and all of the “binge-watching” that was happening (literally billions of hours of binge-watching) people spent more times looking at screens than ever.
All of this screen time has the potential to create a divide between humans and reality. Richard Louv, author of the book Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, claims that a weak connection with nature can cause children to become unaware of the life around them, thus restraining them from the ability to find meaning.
Studies show that children who spend more time connecting with nature are happier, more creative, and better at learning; nature has positive effects on their mental and physical health!
It has also been found that adults who spend more time in nature, or have jobs that inherently involve nature, have higher levels of creativity, productivity, and overall health; bed-ridden hospital patients that are in a room with a view of nature heal faster than those without.
Maine’s Desire to Reconnect is Clear
There has been much debate as to whether or not all of this working and learning from home is truly better than the alternative. In some ways it allows for more personal autonomy and quality family time; in other ways it requires a lot of screen time and may cause people to lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
The people of Maine have made it clear that a sedentary lifestyle is not their cup of tea. Despite the fact that there was more time spent at home than ever before (for most people), Maine’s state parks saw a whopping 3,067,112 visitors last year. That number includes day-use and camping visitors.
The novel coronavirus started to really spread just as Maine’s state parks were approaching their peak season. This fact was a concern to the DACF at first.
“Our biggest concern going into 2020’s peak-season in our state parks was the risk of COVID-19 exposure for our staff and our visitors,” said Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner.
As time went on, and proper measures were put into place, the DACF and Maine’s state parks saw more visitors than ever before!
“Fortunately, because of our team’s preparedness and professionalism, we made strategic designs, and we stayed healthy while creating safe experiences for the more than three million people who came to visit. It is quite an achievement, and one we intend to repeat in 2021,” Beal said.