Paving a path through a natural area changes the dynamic, but that very path will encourage more people to wander through the woods.

Recently I came across a real estate ad for one of our many gated communities that stated simply, “Nature is our greatest amenity.”  

I was delighted to see this. To me, it meant that the business community is recognizing what many of us have known intuitively. 

Yes, we have fantastic amenities throughout the Lowcountry – from first-class golf courses and tennis courts to hotels and restaurants, to name just a few. Frankly, even those who love nature might not have moved here unless it also had many of our manmade amenities. We want both nature and manmade amenities. It is understandable. But can we have it all? 

The bigger question is, “What would having it all mean?” Nature can mean different things to different people. If you ask people what is their idea of getting out and enjoying nature and what it means to them, you will get many several different answers. 

To my golfing friends, communing with nature is playing 18 holes of golf on a beautiful golf course. Others might go to their favorite fishing spot and enjoy the day, whether they catch any fish or not.  Many others enjoy walking or bike riding on nature or leisure trails. Then there are some who just enjoy puttering in their yard or garden. 

But every one of these outdoor nature-loving activities adds stress to our natural environment. Lawns, be they on a golf course or in your yard, need fairly high maintenance. They require fertilizers, weeding, mowing and grooming. This usually involves the ubiquitous weed-whackers and leaf blowers, many of which are gas operated machines that tax our environment. 

In addition, most gardens consist of a mix of natural and constructed elements. Even very “natural” gardens have some elements of artificial creation. 

Here is the conundrum: The more people enjoy nature, the more stress we put on our natural environment. Additionally, whether we are talking about a gated community, or a town, county, state or whatever, there is only so much land area in that jurisdiction. The more that’s developed or managed, the less space that is left totally natural. 

Overall, this is a good thing. If people did not have an appreciation and desire to enjoy nature, there would be little incentive to preserve it. However, both preserving and enjoying nature will require active effort on our part.

What is your favorite nature outdoor activity? And what can you do to reduce the stress on our fragile natural environment? 

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.