Column: Preserve Warner’s Pond

By Dr. Karin Maria Hodges
July 27, 2023

When I heard that the Town of Concord hoped to drain Warner’s Pond and abandon a previous plan for a water recreation area, I was disheartened. This is one example where kids are not being prioritized. We should be preserving childhood by preserving outdoor recreational spaces. 

Kids need to be in nature. Water is an important component of that need, particularly with the heat of the summer months. Thus, in the interest of our children, we should return to the town’s original plan to preserve and use Warner’s Pond as a recreational center. Especially at this time when there are a plethora of problems surrounding the emotional lives of children and teens, we must place kids’ needs first. 

Many kids are overscheduled, over-controlled, or over-medicated. Many are physically inactive, over-reliant on technology, or managing sleep problems. A high proportion of kids have chronic and severe stress, especially those whose literacy, neurodevelopmental, safety, and socialization needs weren’t adequately met in their early years. Stress levels are elevated for youth who’ve managed systemic racism and discrimination. 

Youth are experiencing clinical anxiety and depression at alarming rates. Looking at the disconcerting statistics regarding children and teens, you may think that there is something inherently wrong with the kids nowadays — that the clinical problems in youth are a foregone conclusion. But as a psychologist who practices and teaches prevention, I assure you this is not the case. Youth mental illness is not inevitable. The environments we create for children matter. 

A strong body of research suggests kids benefit from being physically active in nature. Exercise in nature can improve chronobiology, enhance sleep quality, lower stress levels, and increase connection with nature. Outdoor recreation can create less reliance on technology for entertainment and can counter the negative impacts of technology.

As well as its inherent benefits, nature offers some reasonable risks and adventures. These risks and adventures give us a chance to discover courage. We can stay rather than escape our worries or fears. This can grow emotional capacity and make us more adaptive. 

Rather than offering kids fewer opportunities for physical activity in nature, Concord can do better. We can offer more natural recreational spaces — provide daylight and exercise. Gradually we can pull back oversight and allow youth, as they are ready, to explore nature, to be, to enjoy the awe, to exercise in the sunlight, and to discover their courage in the outdoors. 

I would like to compel Concord to preserve Warner’s Pond for children and teens. White Pond and Walden Pond are clearly at capacity. Right now, our children and teens need more choices for enhancing wellness and growing their emotional capacities in natural ways.  

Warner’s Pond is especially critical for kids who are not traveling most holidays — the teens in town who have learned to enjoy the quiet rest that Concord experiences in the summer months and the bright and warm breezy days of spring. And let’s not forget the opportunities for ice skating and ice fishing during the winter holidays! 

Please save Warner’s Pond for our children.