Finding Peace in Nature: Sam Michaels Park
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder, poet
Dear Friend of WV Rivers,
I hope this email finds you healthy, happy, and well.
These past few weeks, I’ve been on a quest to find peace in nature. This has taken me to places outside of my home, far from the four walls that seem to be inching in on our family day by day, minute by minute. (Do you remember the trash compactor scene from Star Wars Episode IV? Our house feels like that, except messier.)
It’s easy to overlook the fact that finding peace in nature must be counterbalanced by finding peace at home. We have temporarily, and for all the right reasons, collectively closed our doors. Our homes, once bastions of solitude we’d retreat to after a day well spent in the presence of others, now feel like a fortress to keep others out, and ourselves in.
The two-trillion dollar question is – can we ever truly find peace in nature without find peace at home? Is there such a thing as one without the other?
What is a home anyways but slabs of oak to bay the wind. Jungles of houseplants. Wildlife climbing over couches and howling in the night. And critically, the rivers flowing through it all to provide our drinking water, cooking water, bathing water, and all of our other basic, critical, life-sustaining uses for water.
This week, my family traveled to the Sam Michaels Park in Jefferson County. Although the playground and community center are closed, this 138-acre park has something for everyone in your family – hiking trails, a dog park, disk golf course, and plenty of wild spaces to explore. (There’s even enough sticks and grass to build your own elf house!)
Flowing through the park is the Elks Run, an impaired stream for fecal coliform and sediment which serves as the drinking water source for Harpers Ferry & Bolivar residents, as well the nearly 500,000 people that visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park each year. Through our Safe Water for WV program, we coordinate a team of partners working together to protect the Elks Run Watershed, including the Harpers Ferry Water Commission.
As part of their 2019 source water protection plan, they have identified climate change as one of the potential sources of significant contamination in the Elks Run Watershed. Climate modeling for our region predicts a greater frequency and severity of storm events, flushing stormwater carrying dirt, sediment, and pollution into the Elks Run as it flows downstream towards Harpers Ferry’s water intake. You can learn more about preventing stormwater & educating your community in WV Rivers’ Stormwater Toolkit.
Sedimentation is costly for water utilities – for every 4% increase in turbidity (i.e., murkiness in water caused by dirt, sediment, etc.), treatment costs increase by 1%. Climate change poses real and immediate costs for water utilities, and Harpers Ferry Water Commission is leading the way in addressing this challenge.
Sam Michaels Park is one of eight parks that the Jefferson County Parks & Recreation manages. They encourage residents to get out and explore, while being mindful of social distancing practices and staying at least 6′ from other visitors. Likewise, we encourage local leaders like you to help protect the Elks Run by joining the Elks Run Watershed Group.
As you sit in growing grass listening to the whisper of bursting tree buds, remember to not only find peace in nature, but to capture it in your heart. Bring that peace home with you, share it with others, and return to your duties relaxed, refreshed, and ready for tomorrow. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Let’s take care of each other, while taking care of nature. In doing so, we can create a sense of home wherever we go.
And soon, very soon, we will be able to look back on these times with the words of Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing on our lips – “Our house is a very, very, very fine house…”
To clean water and clean hands,
Tanner Haid, Eastern Panhandle Field Coordinator