Connecting with the land: community gardens
National Park Service Report
Sometimes a love of the great outdoors starts not with a mind-blowing wilderness trek, but through tending a garden. There are probably examples happening all through your neighborhood. Within sight of downtown Washington, D.C. is a fantastic community garden inside Fort Dupont National Park. The garden offers small plots where the park’s neighbors can find the space to grow — to experience the physical, mental, spiritual and social benefits of tending a garden — in a green refuge from the city’s pavement. The garden’s Dibbles n’ Buds newsletter is a resource for anyone interested in garnering gardening skills.
In addition to fresh, healthy food, gardening also provides mental health and social benefits. Hester Parr of the University of Dundee has documented substantial benefits, including a key insight that people with mental health problems generally felt positive emotions when gardening. Nonprofit Groundwork Trusts like the ones in Somerville, Mass. and Buffalo, N.Y. are helping build community gardens in schoolyards and in public housing developments as a key strategy for building healthier communities.
If you’re ready to find a community garden near you before it’s planting time again, check out the American Community Gardening Association. They can help you find a nearby community garden, or grow one near you.
Tools for the Trail: QR Codes
Imagine walking up to a trailhead… . There’s a sign with the expected trail map, a bear advisory posted last spring, and some rules tacked up behind plexiglass. But there can also be an instant link to a wealth of current information using the smartphone in your pocket. Welcome to the trailhead QR.
Quick Response (or QR) codes are a rapidly emerging media tool. You’ve seen these square-shaped black-and-white codes in stores and magazines. Are you ready to put QRs to work in your favorite outdoor space? It can be simple.
You can use QR codes to quickly and easily put information on the trail. The code is a picture that smartphones can translate into a web address. Users just point a smartphone’s camera at the QR code, and in a moment (if there’s cellphone coverage) the phone will access current trail information, tips, interpretive materials, a trail user census or questionnaire … or anything relevant to using that particular trail. See how the North Carolina Arboretum is using QR codes.
To create your own QR, you just need a web address and content of your choosing, and a free QR code generator app like this one. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the generator app, and you just created a code that you can print for use at the trailhead, a visitor center, nearby lodging, or bike rental and sporting goods stores. QR technology is license-free, so you can easily adapt this free tool for use within your organization. It’s easy to add QR codes as an image to your website, blog, or printed publications too.
There are a number of different ways to read QR codes. The easiest is to take a smartphone and use a QR code reader app like the Google Goggles, which can scan any code and immediately launch the content in a web browser.
The possibilities are wide open. A QR code at the trailhead can allow quick access to a digital trail map. At an interpretive sign, a QR code can enable visitors to learn about history or local wildlife, or post to Facebook that they are visiting the site. You can start turning users into advocates by using QR codes to share your organization’s membership invitation. QR codes can be installed as easily as putting a small sticker on existing signposts, and the information they channel can be changed at any time just by keeping the associated web page up to date, without anyone needing to run out and re-post the trailheads! If you’ve seen a QR in the wild, send us a note and tell us about it!
A Tip of the Hat to … Christine Ellis, Winyah Rivers Foundation — Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Lake Waccamaw, N.C.
The Waccamaw Riverkeeper Program was established in 2002 to educate and advocate for the protection of the Waccamaw River watershed in North and South Carolina. The Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Christine Ellis, works to mobilize citizens to protect the river and its traditional beneficial uses.
“Christine is an exceptional volunteer and has been the key to establishing an active committee of NC residents interested in developing a Blue Trail along the Waccamaw River as it flows from Lake Waccamaw to the N.C./S.C. state line,” said Bill Lane of the National Park Service. “Without her, the current leadership and public involvement regarding the Blue Trail would not have moved as quickly as it has.”
Christine’s love for the river is evident in her passion to continually educate residents on the recreation and conservation opportunities the river offers. Her goal is to develop a Blue Trail along the entire length on the river (140 miles) as it flows from Lake Waccamaw (N.C.) to Winyah Bay (S.C.).
We tip our hat to Christine for her commitment and dedication to protecting the Waccamaw River for future generations to enjoy.
Go to firstname.lastname@example.org to see how the NPS can help your outdoor program.
From the Nov. 16-22, 2011, issue
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