Doubling Down on Conservation During Covid-19.

Paddlers on the Androscoggin River in West Bethel, Maine.

Ok, it has been a strange few months since I last posted on here. First, i just want to say I hope everyone out there is safe and healthy. My family has been readjusting to life as a family of four again (our oldest did volunteer work in Italy last fall, then started college in Boston in January before reluctantly returning home.) Both my wife and I have experienced a downturn in our businesses, but overall we have been relatively mildly impacted by the pandemic. I hope the same is true for your family.

Mountain bikers on recently conserved land in New Durham, New Hampshire.

I felt lucky to have a lot of editing work to do behind the computer in March and April when travelling to shoot in New England was not really an option. Getting to spend time in my studio doing relatively normal work for me was a relief, but I still felt the need to get outside for exercise and ‘forest bathing’. Just before New Hampshire announced their stay at home orders in March (April?), my daughter and I drove to a trailhead about an hour from our house and were surprised to find another 100 cars or so parked there. We did the hike and stayed socially distant as best we could, but that would be our last time travelling for a while.

Sunset view of the White Mountains from Tumbledown Dick Mountain in Gilead, Maine.

Crowded trailheads were not just a New Hampshire problem during the early days of the pandemic. Popular outdoor locations around the country were experiencing large crowds which caused many states to close state parks and even some national parks in an effort to keep Covid-19 from spreading. Suddenly local trails became increasingly important to the new work-from-home crowd unable to travel on weekends to their favorite outdoor haunts. During my career, I’ve always recognized the need to conserve open space in all communities. Before the pandemic, I felt these local spaces provided a respite to people on a daily basis or to people unable or unwilling to travel long distances to enjoy nature.

Mountain bikers on new conservation land in Bethel, Maine. Bethel Village Trails.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know I took a year off in 2014 to (successfully) battle cancer. During that time, having conserved woodlands, and shorelines only a few minutes from home was key to maintaining my mental health and helping me stay positive so I could heal. That experience made me realize that having easy access to open space should be a basic human right. And now, seeing how important it is during the pandemic, I feel even more committed to this idea.

Mountain bikers ride a woods road on new conservation land in New Durham, New Hampshire.

For the last month or so it has been great to have work outside again! I’ve been shooting several newly or soon-to-be conserved properties in western Maine (for The Conservation Fund) and in southern New Hampshire (for the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire.) Recreation access is a major component of all of these projects, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with clients doing such important work.

Stonehouse Brook in Barrington, New Hampshire.
View of Merrymeeting Lake from Mount Molly in New Durham, New Hampshire.
A waterfall on Tumbledown Dick Mountain in Gilead, Maine.
A woman rock climbing on Tumbledown Dick Mountain in Gilead, Maine.
View from Mount Molly in New Durham, New Hampshire.

I hope you can safely get outside close to home and that you successfully weather these difficult times.

-Jerry

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