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Connecting People to Nature

DCNR recognizes the role of local parks in enhancing the natural environment and encouraging access to nature. Parks and facilities that connect people to nature:

  • Stimulate creativity
  • Provide mental and emotional health benefits
  • Encourage stewardship of the land, water, and air

Sustainable SITES Initiative

The national Sustainable SITES Initiative provides ideas to address human well-being when a site is being considered for development into a public recreational use.

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation has adopted principles of the Sustainable SITES Initiative for green park development and sustainability.

DCNR’s Green Principle #2: Connect People to Nature (PDF) lists ideas from the Sustainable SITES Initiative Standards and Guidelines Preliminary Report (2007) on how to better connect people to the natural environment. These include:

  1. Provide opportunities for interaction with nature
  2. Design spaces that address children’s needs
  3. Provide opportunities for passive experiences with nature
  4. Educate site users
  5. Provide spaces for social interaction
  6. Support on-site food production in healthy environments
  7. Consider local cultures/communities and their special needs
  8. Plant trees

Nature Play Areas Address Children’s Needs

Connecting to nature with others can help children develop social skills such as:

  • Sharing
  • Problem-solving
  • Peer negotiation

Local parks are ideal places for exploratory and imaginative play in safe, fun, natural environments. Guides to creating nature play areas include:

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation also has a pilot program that showcases grant projects that are developing nature play areas.

Community Gardens Support On-site Food Production

Park and recreation departments are changing people’s views of the contributions public lands make to the community. The addition of a community garden can:

  • Increase the perceived environmental value of a park
  • Provide an example of green and sustainable practices
  • Provide recreational and rehabilitative benefits

Community garden resources include:

Tools and Resources for Connecting People to Nature

DCNR and partners developed a series of webinars to further educate people on ways they can connect with the outdoors:

Community Park Investments Make a Difference: City of Allentown Webinar (WMV)

Andrew Mowen, Penn State University, Benjamin Hickerson, Penn State University, Greg Weitzel, (formerly) City of Allentown, June 2012. Length: 1 hour 36 minutes. Learn how investing in park renovations can make a difference in a community. Cedar Creek Parkway in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is showcased.

DCNR Green and Sustainable Webinar: Let's Get Outside: Connecting to the Outdoors in the Centre Region (WMV)

Centre Region Parks & Recreation, February, 2012. Length: 1 hour 12 minutes. Learn more about recreational activities in the Centre Region of Pennsylvania. This webinar includes information about programs for all ages, summer camps, pool memberships, and future plans for indoor and outdoor recreational spaces.

2013 Green and Sustainable Webinar Series: Invasive Plant Management (WMV)

DCNR and Natural Lands Trust, April 2013. Length: 1 hour 12 minutes. This webinar identifies which plants across the state are invasive, and the resources and challenges to managing them.