ED of FoHVOS talks about decision to keep trails open

Kulak-Lawrence Preserve (Photo courtesy of FoHVOS)

The following is an email sent to members of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) regarding the recent joint decision by all three Hopewell Valley municipalities as well as most HV non-profit open space organizations to keep some local trails open. MercerMe is grateful to Hopewell Township resident and FoHVOS Executive Director Lisa Wolff for allowing us to share it.

We are here for you

We listed all of the important details [here], but I wanted to share a little about the process that went into making the decision to keep some FoHVOS trails open.

We did not make this decision lightly and we coordinated with local leaders. We fully respect the decision by the Governor and others to close crowded preserves and are grateful that local municipalities in rural towns were allowed to take a different approach.

For FoHVOS, this decision was truly about Putting Your Health & Safety First. We will monitor the trails and if physical distancing restrictions are not followed, we will close, but first we’ll provide our community members the opportunity to do the right thing.

Health Benefits Always – In the front page news story, Walking seen as positive in an era of coronavirus , the Valley news reported on the health benefits of getting outside to FoHVOS preserves while following stay at home orders. In addition, FoHVOS has consistently touted the health benefits of forest bathing and connecting with nature, like the studies published from Harvard Medical School and the NIH. That hasn’t changed.

Empathy For Other Situations – The HVRSD Superintendent, as well as, my friends from local shelters have shared that domestic abuse situations can be exacerbated under stay at home orders and they have received calls. While some of us are enjoying our new found family togetherness, others need an outlet.

Social Emotional Health – Before we were aware of virus issues, Mercer County officials came together to take steps to reduce suicide, depression and other mental health issues. It is commonly recognized that exercise and communing with nature can be very helpful in relieving stress and improving mental/spiritual health.

Equity and Social Justice – FoHVOS has taken a leadership role in our desire to provide equitable access to public lands and opportunities. Our partnered intern program Building Conservation through Diversity and Teamwork has been well received and we must continue to walk the talk. It is far easier for residents living on a large wooded lot to skip going to our trails than people living with less means.

Finally, FoHVOS maintains a foundational belief that we steward our public lands to connect the health and safety of our the flora, fauna, and community.

I close by sharing that our preserves are open… for now. Please help us keep them open by following the physical distancing rules shown above.

Please stay safe and healthy,

Lisa Wolff, Executive Director of FoHVOS

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