Woods walk — what better gift

Westport's Forge Pond in fall. Westport's Forge Pond in fall.

Westport’s Forge Pond in fall.

Protecting land is good … Getting out and enjoying that precious open space is better.

So says Portsmouth’s Ted Clement as he bids aloha to the Aquidneck Land Trust and moves on to Hawaii (life is good!).

It’s wise advice not only for land trusts but for everybody — parents especially.

Asked about challenges facing the Aquidneck Land Trust and land trusts everywhere, Mr. Clement didn’t hesitate. Communities, he said, must instill a love of open space on their youngest members. For unless they learn to appreciate walking the woods, fields and stream banks, open space will always be vulnerable, no matter how ‘ironclad’ its protection.

“Kids these days are so busy — school, after-school sports, technology — and a result of that is a loss of time outdoors. When we become disconnected from where we come from, that’s a constant threat,” he said.

Thanks to the good efforts of the Aquidneck Land Trust and its partners in Tiverton, Little Compton, Westport and beyond, there are plenty of great woods-walk places just minutes away.

Westport has the right idea. Not only does the town have Forge Pond, Old Harbor, Town Farm and other open space treasures, town groups are constantly inventing good excuses to get out and enjoy them. Not a week goes by without some woods exploration, trail maintenance event or school outdoors adventure.

Better yet, families can lead their own ‘wilderness’ expeditions in those moments off from soccer, Xbox or SAT prep. Try Sisson Pond in Little Compton, Fort Barton and Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton (both offer surprising variety — streamside one moment, rocky cliff the next). Portsmouth’s Melville Ponds trails take hikers past waterfalls and around hidden pools — you can even get your feet wet walking across a shallow spillway.

It’s all free and could make a great stocking stuffer — a gift card promising a Saturday afternoon family  trek to any of these amazing places (ice cream at Gray’s afterwards is optional). Memories created in such ways last longer by far than those bought at the big box.

Mr. Clement et al have done yeoman’s work protecting open land in this crowded part of the world. The rest of us just need to make time to get out there and enjoy it.

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