All natural

Studies show Oak Crest’s park-like environment is not just attractive, it’s also good for your health

Created date

March 26th, 2020
Oak Crest is known for its sprawling green spaces and community gardens. In fact, the grounds are so well kept, Oak Crest is recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Oak Crest is known for its sprawling green spaces and community gardens. In fact, the grounds are so well kept, Oak Crest is recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. 

Feeling stressed, out of sorts, or overwhelmed? A walk in the park may be just what the doctor ordered. New research points to what nature lovers have known for years: spending time outdoors is good for your health. 

Mounting research shows that being outdoors can lower your risk of depression, decrease your blood pressure, increase your energy level, aid in the recovery of illness, and boost your immune system. 

For example, a 2015 study by Stanford University examined the brain activity of participants who walked for 90 minutes in a natural setting versus those who walked in an urban environment. They concluded that city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders than their rural counterparts. Another study by the University of Michigan shows that nature walks can have memory-boosting effects that walking in urban areas do not. 

The effects of nature on the brain are so strong researchers are discovering kids with attention deficit hyperactive disorder show an improvement in concentration after spending just 20 minutes outside at a park. 

According to Richard Louv, author of the critically acclaimed book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, the same benefits that come to children from nature, also come to adults almost immediately: reduced stress, accentuated senses, and increased attention span. 

This is good news for residents of Oak Crest, who enjoy 87 park-like acres right outside their front door in Parkville, Md. An Erickson Living-managed community, Oak Crest features beautifully landscaped courtyards, a one-acre lake featuring a deck and gazebo, vegetable and flower gardens, three putting greens, two lighted bocce courts, a walking trail, and an exercise court. 

Always in season

Caring for Oak Crest’s outdoor environment comes naturally for Frank Lina, grounds supervisor at Oak Crest. Lina and his team work year-round to keep Oak Crest’s campus looking impeccable. 

“With a campus this large, there is always a lot happening,” says Lina. “There is cleanup going on throughout the year. Our job varies in accordance with the seasons and weather. For example, in March we begin edging the flower beds, mulching trees and shrubs, and fertilizing. We focus on spring flowers in late April through May. In the summer we water the flowers and landscaping. And in the fall, we focus on cleaning up leaves and debris. We are always continuously cleaning up, landscaping, pruning, planting, and maintaining all signage and parking surfaces.”  

According to Lina, each year more than 4,000 annual flowers are planted and approximately 460 yards of mulch is spread throughout the landscaping. Spring is the busiest time, as the team assists community members with their patios and preps the campus gardens. The community features 80 gardening plots, each one 10-foot by 10-foot, for residents to exercise their green thumbs, growing everything from strawberries to roses. 

To assist residents with their garden plots, Lina and his crew provide mulch, compost, peat moss, water, and one free tilling each year. A garden shed is also available for storing tools.

“We provide one day of volunteer labor at the beginning of each season,” says Lina. 

Oak Crest grounds employees, along with area high school students, help with pulling weeds, raking leaves, and spreading compost and mulch.

Residents aren’t the only ones who appreciate the outdoors at Oak Crest. Animals native to the area such as deer, squirrels, fox, geese, blue heron, ducks, hawks, bluebirds, woodpeckers, and turtles visit and live on campus. 

In fact, the community is recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation education and advocacy. Trees like crabapple, cherry, and viburnums supply food for birds, while the oaks and hickory trees provide nuts for squirrels. A variety of fish, including bass, bluegill, catfish, and koi reside in the lake. 

Lisa Burke, a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist at Oak Crest, says spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the community’s outdoor environment can aid with both physical and spiritual healing.

“Being outside can help boost Vitamin D levels, improve immunity, increase energy, and exposure to natural light helps in recovery from illness and also improves focus,” says Burke. “Life can become mundane and isolative, especially for seniors. Getting outside in nature helps provide mental and spiritual relief from mundane routines and being near the colors blue and green (like water and grass) increases connectedness and renewal. By increasing their physical and mental activity levels seniors can actually ward off dementia, cognitive decline, immobility, and disease.”

But, warns Burke, “the sun’s rays are strong so be sure to always wear sunscreen, as well as safe and proper footwear and outerwear for the season.”

Take a hike

In addition to Oak Crest’s park-like campus, the community is also ideally located near many of the area’s most beautiful parks. Here are just a few:

Cromwell Valley Park

2002 Cromwell Bridge Road

Just a short 15-minute drive from Oak Crest, this popular park features over five miles of hiking trails through fields and forest, along streams and ridges. 

Rocks State Park

3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road

Featuring soaring rock backdrops, this 855-acre park located in Jarrettsville includes 3.5-miles of hiking trails, three picnic areas, and access to Deer Creek for fishing, wading, and tubing. 

Oregon Ridge Park

13401 Beaver Dam Road

This 1,043-acre Cockeysville park is open year-round and offers hiking trails, picnic and recreation areas, as well as a nature center.