by Trevor Smith
The rising sun peeks over the Charles River, golden rays explode through the towering oaken canopy. The heavy sweet scent of Clethra perfumes the air with undertones of fresh water and earth. A heron is fishing for breakfast just off shore, a deer walks up the bank from the water as turkey’s root around in the leaf litter. The high pitched squeak of a startled chipmunk pierces the air alerting the wood of my presence. A mother duck ushers her ducklings into the water, the white tail of the deer is all I see crashing into the brush while the turkeys just keep foraging. All of this and I haven’t walked more than 60 feet down the newly constructed permeable Wellesley Office Park Walking Path.
The Wellesley Office Park Walk is the largest Porous Pave installation in the northeast. John Hancock, in funding the project, has demonstrated the sustainable mission many companies are implementing. Since many companies are adopting creative strategies to improve the work environment for their employees, this scenic escape could also be viewed as an added employee benefit.
We have all heard about tech companies installing game rooms, “bring your pet to work” days, etc. and this scenic escape falls right in line with these. It may even be better, because it gets you outside of the working world and immerses you in the natural world.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku, Japanese for Forest Bathing, is becoming the latest fitness trend in the United States. Forest Bathing is simply connecting with a natural space, often wandering through forest paths. Extensive studies have been done on Shinrin-Yoku and have shown marked reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as reduced blood pressure and an improved immune response and cerebral blood flow.
As the science between health and nature continues to grow and more companies begin to look for workplace amenities that match their sustainable mission and as cities and towns continue to convert old railways to bike and walking paths it is increasingly important to do so responsibly. Fortunately, there are low impact solutions to address these challenges that maximize people’s accessibility and connection with nature without disrupting or significantly altering the delicate balance of the natural world.