If I was the kind of person who has the ability to plan ahead, I would’ve written an incredible ode to public lands sometime before, say, 3 p.m. on National Public Lands day. Instead I’m going to tell you about a great way to celebrate Public Lands that, ironically, does not require you to leave your chair.
I spent this Saturday morning on … wait for it … public lands. I ran 22 miles today on a delightful, well maintained public park trail near Ashland City, Tennessee with a handful of my runner brethren. The trail is the benefactor of a team of volunteers who do some of the work to clear fallen branches. The rest of the work is provided by the city. As a result runners, walkers and cyclists have the chance to get out there in a safe location, enjoy the opulent shade coverage and get some exercise.
In the great scheme of national priorities — things like national security, making sure people have food and law enforcement — funding public lands doesn’t get top billing. Nor should it. If we had to make a “most important” to “least important” list, I think we could all agree that those things rank higher.
But that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Public lands in general and, for the sake of this discussion National Parks in particular serve an important public health purpose. We think of them as “recreation,” but in a nation where obesity is an ever growing problem (see what I did there?) having maintained, safe space to go outside and move is a relatively cheap alternative compared to the public healthcare costs of treating obesity related diseases.