Our Open Places- An Introduction to a Continuing Series
For the past 12 months people have chosen to go outside as a way to break up the monotony of quarantining during the COVID pandemic. They went outside to walk. I saw some people who went outside to kayak. Many people went outside to go fishing. During the summer, families went outside to cook and eat. If company came, we went outside to talk on opposite sides of the driveway while wearing masks.
It sounds so normal that we take the phrase for granted: “going outside.” It infers that being inside is a normal state of being and when you go outside, you’re exiting your routine to do something exceptional. What’s funny about this phrase is that for hundreds of thousands of years, people lived “in the world” and took shelter when needed. If you look at human history, the state of being in shelter is a tiny fraction when compared to enjoying the outdoors.
I love open places! As a kid, I spent as much time as possible playing outside—riding bikes, fishing, and being creative. The joys of spending time outdoors have been discovered by so many with the “stay at home” order that there’s an entire new generation of people looking to discover our special places and continue their outdoor recreation even after the malls and movie theaters open. After experiencing the natural world and the serenity that accompanies being immersed in a wilderness experience, there is resistance to returning to canned fun and manufactured experiences.
We are lucky as Americans to have space to roam. We have millions of acres of public land owned by the People of the United States, by the members of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and by the residents of Holliston. These millions of acres are a huge part of American life. Even if you live in New York City, you should be proud that we have a Yellowstone National Park. These lands are held in trust for future generations—not simply for preservation (to be untouched) but as areas of recreation to be responsibly enjoyed. Various agencies too numerous to list own or manage the land, including Mass DCR, Mass Wildlife, Municipalities such as Holliston, Army Corps of Engineers, and many more. Our public lands are a great gift. If you live here and don’t enjoy them, it’s like owning a boat or plane but never taking a cruise or a spontaneous flight.
A few years ago we took a family trip to Yellowstone National Park. The experience was amazing and knowing that this park is largely the way it was for hundreds of years was inspiring. People over a hundred years ago saw the Yellowstone caldera and recognized that minimizing commercial development and conserving wildlife within its borders would be a great gift for future Americans. Profiteers suggested large development was the key to funding the park, but there was an argument to be made of the benefit of maintaining the park as a wild place.
Maintaining areas free of commercial development can add many benefits to a community. In a recent contribution to the Holliston Reporter, I wrote on behalf of the Holliston Open Space Committee concerning a great gift to our residents of a parcel of land that adds to acreage in the town forest on Adams Street. Over the next few months I’ll share some of my own experiences, individually and separate from the town’s committee, in our Holliston public places. My goal is to highlight some properties you might want to explore. This series of articles about our special open places is sure to instill pride in our community and get more people to “go outside.”