Nature’s healing touch

Nature’s healing touch

Spending time in nature is good for the mind and body

If social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak has you feeling cooped up in your home, you’re not alone in finding ways to get outside and enjoy all that nature in Rhode Island has to offer.

According to officials from the R.I. Land Trust Council, they’ve seen a recent increase in traffic on the trails with parking lots at some trailheads full.

“Spending time in nature is good for anxiety, and these are anxious times,” Rupert Friday, the council’s executive director, told The Valley Breeze. “There’s all kinds of research showing (physical and mental health) benefits of taking walks and spending time in nature.”

“A lot of people are nervous,” Debbie Mitchell, board member for the Cumberland Land Trust and president of the board for the R.I. Land Trust Council, agreed. “Getting outside, hearing the birds, it just gives you another perspective to take a few minutes and not worry about what’s going on.”

Get outside and check out new hiking trails in Cumberland or become a citizen scientist and help identify amphibians and reptiles for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Bike, jog, walk, look for birds, as long as you’re following precautions from state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid groups of more than 10 and keep six feet between you and others.

In a letter to the editor last week, Randy Tuomisto, president of the Cumberland Land Trust, pitched hiking as a great way to beat cabin fever while still participating in social distancing.

“Hiking is out in the open, and honestly, it’s one of the safer things you can be doing right now,” he wrote. He also encouraged parents to take their children, who may be feeling “the negative aura of a quarantine society,” on a hike.

One family-friendly hike, Mitchell said, is Burlingame Preserve off Nate Whipple Highway in Cumberland.

This past month, the Cumberland Land Trust upgraded its trail system for the Blackall/Ballou properties, according to its Facebook page. A centralized trail head is located on West Wrentham Road, and the new system includes two extended one-plus mile loop trails coupled by a single connector; the new trails bring hikers through 3.2 miles of forested rolling hill and valley complexes, aside wetland habitats, through an old and overgrown orchard, past farmers’ rock piles and stonewall complexes.

Another popular hiking spot in town is the Monastery, 1464 Diamond Hill Road, which “has an incredible network of trails for people of all kinds of walking abilities,” Friday said, noting that some are handicapped-accessible while others are more rugged.

Other hikes in northern Rhode Island include Sprague Farm Town Forest and the Steere Hill & Phillips Farm property in Glocester, Lincoln Woods, and the seven scenic walks in Smithfield.

Most local land trusts have websites with information about their properties and trail maps. For a list, visit .

The R.I. Land Trust Council’s Explore Rhode Island website offers interactive maps as well as a list of 103 trails across the state with a breakdown of miles, level of difficulty, and other information including whether bikes and/or dogs are allowed. Visit .

The council also launched a new website, , which lets people track their walks and set goals, Friday said. “It’s easy for people to find places to walk or just walk in your neighborhood,” he said.

Mitchell is reminding hikers to watch for ticks and recommends wearing brightly colored pants and socks over the bottom of your pants to prevent tick bites.

Cyclists and walkers can also take advantage of the state’s bike paths including the 18.2-mile Blackstone River Bikeway, the state’s second-longest bike path, which includes 11.6 miles of continuous path from Cumberland to Woonsocket, according to the RIDOT website.

Friday, who lives in Narragansett and walks the South County Bike Path, said bike paths are great for people with mobility challenges and baby strollers.

Another way to get outside is to become a citizen scientist with DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife’s new Herp Observer app, which allows members of the public to submit observations of amphibians and reptiles (aka “herps”) to the division’s databases. For more information, visit .

If you’re craving a walk or drive around Providence, The Avenue Concept offers self-guided tours of its sculptures and murals downtown and in the South Side and West End. For more, visit .

A trail map of Sprague Farm Town Forest, one of two properties maintained by the Glocester Land Trust, which is open to hikers.