IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, the world has profoundly changed before our eyes. The way we do the most basic things has been turned inside out. Home is the office, school is online. Up is down, out is in.
In fact, now more than ever, out–as in outside–is in. This year communities have rediscovered the importance of nature for our wellbeing. People have responded to this unintended catalyst for cultural change and come together outside.
“We are really fortunate that our local connection to nature has always been strong–core to who we are as a community.” says John Sentell, Lake Forest Open Lands Association President. “What hasn’t changed is our ability to connect the community with nature,” Sentell shared, referring to Lake Forest Open Lands’ multi-tiered offerings that include hundreds of acres of public nature preserves laced with trails ready for exercise and adventure, kids’ programs, intern and volunteer opportunities, adult education, and social events. He adds, “We need nature as much as nature needs us.”
This year, “Bagpipes & Bonfire,” a fall fixture on the local calendar and a Lake Forest tradition for over 30 years, has been reimagined in a way that will be safe for the world we live in now.
“We want to serve up the best of Bagpipes in today’s world,” Fred Wacker, Lake Forest Open Lands Association Chair says. “To do that, we’re getting creative and putting together an event that safely allows everyone to experience and take the annual spirit of Bagpipes home this year. We’re really excited about it.”
On Saturday, September 19, the evening festivities will offer catered family dinners, Scottish beverage options, and a corps of pipers who will play at various locations around the community. “Beneath all the changes this year, the spirit still burns bright. The pipers will still play and the tradition will continue. This reimagined event will set up an amazing and refreshed celebration in 2021, just watch.” Wacker continues. Northern Trust is the presenting sponsor this year.
For over 50 years LFOLA has proudly been our area’s conservation land trust, restoring, preserving, and making nature available to everyone. Today, the organization finds itself ideally positioned to welcome the world into the healthy outdoors during the coronavirus lockdown. The world has been thinking outside, reconsidering priorities and aspirations, and LFOLA has been there.
“All of us are living through this unprecedented change,” Sentell comments. “Through our work and conservation mission, LFOLA is ready for it. We take great pride in the fact that more people are discovering and appreciating what’s right here. It’s tough to drive to a National Park or get on a plane these days. Nature is what you make of it. Ours is only five minutes from your back door.”
Beginning in March, visits to nature preserves have been on the rise, as people pursue options that take them outside when beaches, gyms, and other activities shut down throughout our area. With new directional trail signs and wayfinding kiosks in place to clearly guide and physically distance its visitors, Lake Forest Open Lands is thoughtful in ensuring that its preserves remain accessible so members of the community can get outside safely.
What is happening locally is consistent with national measures that have suddenly bucked a prevailing long-term trend. Based on data reported by Scientific American magazine, national park visits, sales of fishing licenses, campground permits and other empirical data points indicate that the public’s appetite for outdoor recreation peaked over 30 years ago and has been dropping ever since. The COVID-19 restrictions abruptly reversed that, creating a reconnection with the outdoors.
“Each day, we welcome individuals, families, children, dogs, seniors, runners, birdwatchers, frog fans, anyone who can find their way to one of our six preserves,” Sentell says. “We’re open for people who appreciate nature and those who want to learn more. With the ongoing support of this community, Lake Forest Open Lands will always be here. We like to say that nature is not only good for your heart, it’s good for your soul.”
Please visit lfola.org to learn more about 2020’s Bagpipes & Bonfire and LFOLA, and to learn how you can help keep nature open for all.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE CHAIR
Fred Wacker, chair of Lake Forest Open Lands Association, shares a perspective on the important role of LFOLA during these times:
“Our organization’s commitment to broadening people’s awareness of the benefits of nature to our community is a most worthy undertaking. LFOLA is our local treasure, our open space, our place to move from the 4-inch screen to a natural expanse of hundreds of acres right outside our back doors. We truly appreciate all the ways that friends of LFOLA support our mission. Without our members, volunteers, and supporters, we could not do what we do or what yet needs to be done. In the case of LFOLA, we are always open for you. It remains a constant for all of us—an organization that stewards places where we can take in the unique sights, smells, and sounds that only come with fresh air and a walk in the woods.”