It was the year we fell in love with the fields and streams and forests closest to home.
During a global pandemic, being outdoors was a safe way to have fun. The natural world became a source of constancy and solace for many in desperately troubled times.
New Hampshire people took to their local trails in record numbers.
When they did, many discovered trails on land protected by small land trusts — like Bear-Paw Regional Greenways in Northwood, which has two staffers and has conserved 9,500 acres across 11 towns in the heart of the state.
“All land trusts really did a great job at pivoting,” said Katrina Amaral, executive director of Bear-Paw. “The work that we have been doing really paid off for our communities this past year.”
Bear-Paw developed an outdoor curriculum for parents, students and educators to use, bringing science lessons outside when schools went remote.
Increased use brought with it some increased misuse: ATVs and dirt bikes where they did not belong, rogue trails cut by ardent neophytes. But in a COVID silver lining, local, non-motorized outdoor exploration also lessened the environmental impact of people traveling long distances to enjoy the outdoors.
And local trails, once discovered, are likely to be long treasured.
“My appreciation for what is right outside my door has never been greater,” wrote Grace Mattern of Northwood, who chairs Bear-Paw’s board. “How lucky to have discovered so much because I thought I was limited to so little.”