UW Combined Fund Drive

March 27, 2023

Recreate responsibly this spring

Spring is here! With nicer weather on the horizon, it’s time get outside and recreate in a way that respects the environment and each other.

Hiking, cycling, running, boating, horseback riding, fishing, open water swimming, you name it–when it comes to outdoor recreation in the Pacific Northwest, we have a true embarrassment of riches.

Heard of canicross or bikejoring? These highly athletic and competitive warm weather sports involve dog-powered running and biking.

Is hiking your thing? Check out Top Ten Hikes in Washington State for some inspo. The Washington Trails Association hiking guide is an indispensable resource for finding hiking trails in any season.

Why get outside? Nature is good for you 

Among the many benefits of a strong nature connection: improved mental acuity and creativity; better health through physical activity that reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and other lifestyle diseases; and an understanding of the urgent need for environmental protection and preservation of our planet.

Considerable scientific research supports the conclusion many of us have already reached: nature is good for you. And fun, too.

Kids too! All of this is just as true for kids, as well – outdoor time provides powerful boosts to their mental, physical, and emotional development. Getting outside and into the dirt helps combat “nature-deficit disorder”, a term coined by nature advocate Richard Louv to describe the human cost of alienation from nature.

Research suggests that kids who actively engage in outdoor play:

  • Are more likely to have an active adulthood;
  • Show more creative play and better concentration in school;
  • Engage in more inter-gender play during school recess;
  • Have reduced symptoms of ADHD; and
  • Are more likely to develop life-long conservation values.

Additionally, according to the hygiene hypothesis, early exposure to plants, animals, and soil helps children’s immune systems to develop properly, making them less vulnerable to food allergies and conditions like asthma.

Canicross is a combination of the words “canine” and “cross-country”, which is actually a great description of the sport.

Recent research out of North Carolina State University has found that, particularly for teens, nature-based activities have been linked to improved well-being by offsetting some of the negative mental health impacts of major stressors that teens and children face.

Equity and inclusion outdoors

For American communities most impacted by systemic inequality, addressing the imbalance in equitable access to greenspace is critical to public health. Systemic racism, historic trauma, threats of violence, and socioeconomic differences have led to demographic underrepresentation of BIPOC communities in the outdoors.

Together Outdoors is a national organization dedicated to grassroots advocacy for greater BIPOC representation in the outdoors.

Recreate responsibly

So, nature is good for our health, good for our wellbeing and fun. But between pandemic-inspired public health cautions, awareness of the fragility of our environment and greater awareness of the need for inclusivity in outdoor recreation, how can we be responsible and conscientious users of our natural spaces?

The following guidelines, provided by the Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition, will help us protect ourselves, others, and places we love when we adventure outside:

  • Know before you go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, do not go. If it is crowded, have a backup plan.
  • Plan ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  • Explore locally: Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Practice physical distancing: Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play it safe: Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  • Leave no trace: Respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
  • Build an inclusive outdoors: Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

Get Social! You are encouraged to share your commitment to responsible outdoor adventures using the hashtag #RecreateResponsibly in your social media posts and follow the movement on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Support through the UWCFD

Outdoor time is truly essential to our health, well-being, and happiness – particularly for people impacted by systems of inequality. Everyone deserves to experience Pacific Northwest spring recreation (and summer, fall and winter too). Supporting these nonprofit organizations helps them make the outdoors safe, accessible, and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

Consider making a one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our UWCFD member organizations working to make outdoor recreation accessible and equitable for all:

Washington Trails Association (charity code 0315053): Washington Trails Association’s mission is to preserve, enhance, and promote hiking opportunities in Washington state through collaboration.

The Mountaineers (charity code 1481321) is a nonprofit outdoor education, recreation and conservation organization whose mission is to enrich the community by helping people explore, conserve, learn about and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Washington Wild (charity code 315056): Washington Wild protects and restores wild lands and waters in Washington state through advocacy, education, and civic engagement.

Washington State Parks (charity code 0315070): The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission cares for Washington’s most treasured lands, waters, and historic places. State parks connect all Washingtonians to their diverse natural and cultural heritage and provide memorable recreational and educational experiences that enhance their lives.

Outdoors for All (charity code 0320849): enriches the quality of life for more than 2,000 children and adults with disabilities per year through year-round outdoor recreational activities. Outdoors for All is transforming the lives of more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities each year.

the Service Board (charity code 1478661): empowers youth to overcome obstacles and build strong community through snowboarding, public service, and a curriculum of social justice.