Natural remedy

Charlestown’s park-like campus is good for body, mind, and soul

Created date

April 27th, 2020
Lake Charles, Charlestown’s three-acre lake is stocked with fish and attracts many different kinds of wildlife.

Lake Charles, Charlestown’s three-acre lake is stocked with fish and attracts many different kinds of wildlife.

If there is any truth to the adage, "Nature itself is the best physician," (and research shows there is) then residents of Charlestown, a community located on 110 park-like acres in Catonsville, Md., have reason to rejoice. 

Beautifully landscaped courtyards, a three-acre lake, vegetable and flower gardens, paved walking paths and a half-mile-long nature trail, bocce and shuffleboard courts are right outside the door of every apartment at the community.

Healing power of nature

Studies show 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. 

In a 2015 study by Stanford University, researchers 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. 

Always in season

Caring for Charlestown’s outdoor environment comes naturally for Ryan Truitt, the grounds supervisor at Charlestown. Truitt and his team work year-round to keep Charlestown’s campus looking impeccable. 

“Our responsibilities change on a daily basis and throughout the year,” says Truitt. “We work with an outside vendor who completes all the routine maintenance of all the common areas of the campus such as mowing, edging, spring cleanup, mulching, irrigation systems maintenance, leaf removal, tree removal/pruning and maintenance. All resident concerns are completed by our in-house team. We oversee a wide variety of tasks ranging from keeping the property free of trash and debris, assisting residents with their garden patios, pressure washing common areas and resident’s patio, organizing on-site plant sales, and installing holiday decorations.” 

According to Truitt, each year more than 1,000 flowers including vinca, canna lilies, Dragon Wing begonias, wax begonias, coleus, and New Guinea impatiens are planted and approximately 450 cubic yards of mulch is spread throughout the landscaping. Spring is the busiest time, as the team assist community members with their patios and prep the campus gardens. The community features 90 garden plots, each 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 Truitt and his crew provide mulch, compost, peat moss, water, and one free tilling each year. A garden shed is also available for storing tools.

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

Charlestown’s property is 40% forested, boasting more than 70 species of trees that supply food for birds and oaks and hickory trees that provide nuts for squirrels. A variety of fish, including bass and bluegill, reside in the lake. 

As the grounds team prepares for the summer season, Truitt says the most challenging part of maintaining Charlestown’s large campus is staying on top of every area on campus. 

“Throughout the year things change from season to season and each season has its own set of challenges,” says Truitt. “It’s important to make sure we are not only focusing on current tasks, but also looking ahead and planning for the upcoming season.” 

Take a hike

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

Patapsco Valley State Park

8020 Baltimore National Pike

Just a short 15-minute drive from Charlestown, this popular park extends for miles along the Patapsco River and features 200 miles of trails, as well as opportunities for fishing, camping, canoeing, and bike riding.  

Catonsville Community Park

501 North Rolling Road

A 40-acre park featuring picnic areas, paved walking paths, nature trails, tennis and pickleball courts.  

Centennial Park

10000 Clarksville Pike

Located in Howard County, this 337-acre park offers paved walking paths, picnic, and recreation areas, as well as a 54-acre lake stocked by the State Department of Fisheries.