We should all have access to clean and safe outdoor spaces

We should all have access to clean and safe outdoor spaces

May 20th, 2020
By Lisa Hallo

Like so many organizations, Upstate Forever temporarily closed its offices in mid-March, and staff started teleworking. I traded my 45-minute commute for a much shorter kitchen-to-home-office scenario. Remote work for my husband and homeschooling for my kids began around the same time. 

As we settled into our quarantine existence, we replaced time typically spent in a car with hours exploring the Clemson Experimental Forest. The Forest is an Upstate jewel — 17,500 acres of trees, trails, and waterfalls. 

I have always cherished living so close to the Forest — regularly hiking, biking, and running its trails. My kids have kayaked, fished, and swam in Lake Issaqueena. We have gathered there with friends more times than I can count and enjoyed the quiet solitude as well. And the best part is — we can get there without even stepping foot in a car.

Sadly, many Upstate residents cannot say the same. How many people are so lucky to live so close to such a magical outdoor place? 

That thought hit home as I read an article this week that noted, “Working from home, and having safe access to nature, are privileges not available to all.”

According to the author, Juan D. Martinez, communities of color and economically challenged neighborhoods often lack access to quality greenspaces. These “equity gaps in nature access” are due in part to policies perpetuating such disparities. Martinez is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at the Children & Nature Network

When the Clemson Experimental Forest temporarily closed in late March due to COVID-19 I felt a true sadness — like something dear had been taken from me. To the excitement of many, the Forest recently fully re-opened. 

As I enjoyed an early morning trail run today, I was struck by the importance that places like the Forest play in our lives — especially in times of uncertainty and distress. And convinced that we all deserve such places. While I am always grateful to live so close to the Forest, it is easy to forget that not everyone is so fortunate. 

Upstate Forever’s Land Planning & Policy team works with elected officials, communities, and local stakeholders to promote smart, responsible growth. As we advocate for a more balanced approach to development, we must remember that access to clean and safe outdoor spaces for Upstate residents is a critical component of that effort.  

Lisa Hallo is the Land Policy Director at Upstate Forever and can be reached at lhallo@upstateforever.org.

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