In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic where every day seems to bring a new bout of restrictions, many people have taken to Attleboro area nature trails as a way to get away — if just for awhile.
“If we’ve got to be quarantined and away from people, I’m loving getting back to basics — having time with family, and being in nature,” said Dawn Bender of Attleboro, who was strolling with her 11-year-old daughter Katrina and their family dog Ginger in the Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve in Attleboro on Saturday.
Bender, who usually spends time on weekends going out for walks, particularly likes the nature trails that are dog-friendly so Ginger could come too.
The serenity and stillness of the nature trails provided a respite in many other ways, as well.
“It’s peaceful,” Bender said. “The birds are singing and things are starting to bloom. It gives you a piece of normalcy in this strange world.”
Ben Cotes, chairman of the Friends of the Ten Mile River and Bucklin Brook, said he has noticed more people making their way outdoors and learning about the natural resources in the area.
“One positive thing about the pandemic is people are getting outside. They are keeping their social distance at the river,” he said. “They are also big into the history of the river. It’s becoming popular for people to get out to area cemeteries (along the river). We get a lot of requests for that.”
However, Cotes emphasized that local walkers should be careful to practice social distancing and avoid areas that already draw a lot of traffic, pointing to areas like Slater Park in Pawtucket and its greenway, which have been packed with people.
“That’s not that smart,” he said.
Keith Gonsalves, founder and president of the Ten Mile River Watershed Council, has also noticed more families heading to local sites due to the pandemic.
“We see more families out. More people are finding these wonderful places,” he said.
He said that could lead to some future issues related to wear and tear on places that aren’t used to so many visitors. He also said changes have been made to ensure visitors can enjoy outdoor locations safely.
For example, a rule change was implemented for the river herring count site on the Seekonk line.
“People have to use their own pen and send the information in,” as they count the number of herring they see migrating along the river, he said.
At the Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve, the 63-acre landscape held a welcoming reprieve for 11-year-old Luke Almeda of Attleboro.
“It’s calming,” Almeda said of the preserve. “It’s the sound of the birds and being away from all the commotion, away from all the talking about the coronavirus. You can go outside and be free.”
The breath of fresh air, in many respects, gave a boost to Almeda, who is a student at Wamsutta Middle School, and misses being in classes.
“It’s different,” Almeda said of the school’s remote learning. “We still have work to do, but it’s not as good as doing the work in school. It feels better hearing your teacher explain things to you in person rather than through a computer.”
Almeda was accompanied by his father, Ryan, and his two brothers, 8-year-old Ethan and 5-year-old Noah, as well as their dog Oliver.
“It’s nice to be able to spend extra family time together. We’re trying to make the most out of a bad situation,” Ryan Almeda said. “(At the preserve), it’s the peacefulness of not being around the usual hustle and bustle.”
Further along at the Richardson Preserve, Pawtucket residents Sam Carmichael and his 7-year-old son Noah found some walking sticks for their hike.
“We try to hunt down the best trails,” Sam Carmichael said, adding that he and Noah usually go on nature hikes at least twice a month.
The almost unbroken silence and serenity of the Richardson Preserve, as well as its rich landscape, also served as a positive reminder to Carmichael.
“Things aren’t completely over,” he said. “When you’re in your house watching the news, you feel like the world has completely shut down. But the birds are still out and the fields are still here.”
Attleboro City Councilor Ty Waterman and his wife Jan were able to make the most of their time at the preserve with their dog Chloe, who, like Dawn Bender’s dog, also enjoys going for walks in the pet-friendly nature trails.
“It’s nice to see other people, to know that they’re out there,” Waterman said. “This is our alternate space.”