By Mindy Brand, Assistant Director of Annual Fund and Programs
While going through the University of Illinois Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Master’s program last year, I found that people are very curious about what it means to study recreation. It turns out that the word “recreation” actually means a lot. And not just abstractly – it means a lot to your life. The verb form of the word may shed some light: to “recreate” is something we all do regularly, whether we realize it or not. We recreate when we watch TV, take a walk, or socialize with friends. But, how we choose to recreate also matters a lot, especially considering the past year we’ve had. Differences aside, we all have one thing in common – this year has been stressful. And during stressful times, we need recreation the most.
Synonyms of the word recreate include: reinvent, restore, remake. Recreation is an opportunity to replenish your mind and body, and outdoor recreation has the power to make us healthier and happier. You are likely familiar with the well-documented health benefits that come with spending time in nature: the increased level of oxygen in your body, the way your brain reacts to the color green, the calming sound of wind and cheerful call of birds. These things are inherently good for you.
As we take a closer look at who in our community has access to these benefits and who does not – specifically, who has access to Allerton and who does not. The historic nature of Allerton, and the fact that it was once a private residence, means that many areas are not physically accessible. Thanks to recent donations, updates have been made to the Brick Wall Garden and Solarium Terrace to make those spaces more accessible. Another opportunity we have identified is the need for a physically accessible woodland path, in addition to the existing 14 miles of hiking trails. The first phase of our Children and Family Area will allow for this addition, creating a quarter mile paved loop through the aptly named “Wandering Woods”, between the Main Parking Lot and Fu Dog Garden.
Whether you’re pushing a stroller, walking a circuit, or adventuring in a wheelchair – the accessible path will be a useful and safe way to experience nature. Our focus now is to secure the funding necessary to make the path a reality. Individual donors have had a tremendous impact on the improvement and increased accessibility of Allerton, and this project provides another opportunity to make a significant difference for the health and wellbeing of many who visit.