It was a special place in the few acres of forest behind our house, a place where a child could play for countless hours. Furniture constructed of rocks and logs adorned the small clearing beneath the low hanging branches of the crooked old tree. Friendly creatures visited upon occasion, making me hold my breath with pure wonder. And, when my little Eutopia took over reality and held on a little too tight, I would often be jolted out of my imagination by the realization that the ominous shadows in the deepest part of the woods just might be moving a little closer! It was time to run towards the glowing windows of my real home!
Twenty years ago I went back to visit my mother at my childhood home and Eutopia was gone. The woods were still there, but someone had actually moved a pre-civil-war home to the lot and plopped it right on top of my little spot! Surely, when I die I will have to come back and haunt them . . . at least a little!
I have recently been reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods which I would highly recommend to anyone with children, grandchildren or young friends! Basically, Louv writes about how our children are being deprived of the experiences in nature and the real world that previous generations enjoyed. Sports and other monitored outdoor activities can not take the place of free time in nature even if that freedom is in a place as seemingly insignificant as a vacant city lot. Children not only learn from nature, but they also make the connection that will inspire them to protect our environment in the future.
In her review of this book, Diane Gordon, Director of Hooked on Nature’s Children’s Nature Program, states, “ Fortunately, there is an antidote for nature deficit disorder—getting children back into the wild. The latest research demonstrates that when children have hands-on experiences with nature, even if it is simply in the weed lot at the end of the street, they reap the benefits. Researchers cite diminishment in levels of ADHD, fewer incidents of anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem, enhanced brain development, higher levels of curiosity and creativity, and a sense of connectedness to the community and the environment.”
One of the things that drew me to Spokane was its extensive park system. In the early 1900’s the Olmsted Brothers, the first “urban planners” in America, recommended an extensive park system for the young city of Spokane. Fortunately, their recommendations were taken seriously by the first president of Spokane’s newly formed Park Board. The Olmsteds believed that every home should be within reasonable walking distance of a park and that there should be large natural parks, especially on the edge of the city. Aubrey White, the new president, worked hard to make that a reality!
Over the next months, I hope to introduce you to some of our great parks and the neighborhoods that surround them! Although I love our largest South Hill park, Manito Park, with its wonderful gardens and spaces, I am equally fond of Spokane’s tiniest parks which have few manmade amenities but an abundance of nature. Cliff Park, my own neighborhood park, is an excellent example of small and natural! With plenty of little nooks and hideouts to explore, Cliff Park is a wonderful place for children to explore!
Or how is this for a dream playground for a young adventurer?
And at the top is a wonderful lookout where you can see for miles. A place for imagination to flourish!
"The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses." Richard Louv
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