Building a Nature Habit in Bucks County


Grace King

One of the most-pictured spots in Peace Valley Park

Throughout Bucks County, Pennsylvania, they’re plenty of fun sites to see. Residents and visitors can visit a variety of historical sites, flea markets, shopping centers, and much more within the area. However, some of Bucks County’s most rewarding sites would be the different parks it has to offer. Specifically, Peace Valley Park and Nature Center and Nockamixon State Park maintain much of the county’s beauty.

Peace Valley Park was established in the early 1970s and is located in Central Bucks County. The park was first made when the north branch of the Neshaminy Creek was dammed in order to create a 3-mile-long finger lake. The intention was to help with recreation, water conservation, and flood control. Prior to the park being created, the lakebed was part of the New Galena village where the economy was largely dependent on farming. Currently, the lake provides drinking water for around 150,000 people within the Bucks and Montgomery counties. As far as Nockamixon State Park, it’s known to have the largest lake in Bucks County. The lake was created with part of the dam on Tohickon Creek and is known to be the “centerpiece” of the entire park. Historically, Nockamixon was developed as part of the United States Army Corps of Engineers in their plan for the Delaware River Basin. Originally, the park was known as Tohickon State Park and in 1973 had been renamed Nockamixon which is a name that originates from the Native American phrase “noch-miska-ing” meaning “at the place of soft soil.”

Both Peace Valley Park and Nockamixon offer a variety of fun activities to the public. Specifically, Peace Valley has playgrounds for children, hiking trails, biking, fishing, paddle boarding, picnic areas, and much more. The distance around Galena Lake is about 8 miles and is perfect for the annual “Friends of the Dove” race which is held every August. There are over 14 miles worth of trails perfect for biking and hiking along with plenty of areas that are restricted for “wildlife preservation” purposes. The park is also perfect for bird watching where Common Mergansers are seen frequently. Additionally, Peace Valley has a lavender farm and a vineyard! Similarly, Nockamixon offers a variety of things to do. Some activities include kayaking, boating, fishing, horseback riding, picnic areas, hunting, and much more. Additionally, sailboating is a popular activity as there is an active sail club organizing plenty of activities.

Visiting these parks and creating a connection with nature is a beneficial habit to form. Creating a social connection is known for boosting one’s mood and allowing one to better manage their emotional state. For the longest time, creating human connection and connection with nature has created a sense of belonging and leads to plenty of mental health benefits. Connection leads to increased fulfillment as when we express our emotions with others and nature whether that be crying or laughing, we will release endorphins and dopamine which are the neurotransmitters that are responsible for both mood and happiness. Hence, creating a close connection with nature is a great way to implement healthy habits. Visiting a local park, whether that be on a weekly or monthly basis, can help to keep one accountable and create a routine like walking or biking more regularly.

In a recent interview with Taryn Shine, a Pennridge High School senior, she was asked whether she believes there are any mental and physical health benefits when visiting a park and responded with “I think it can clear your head…exercise is good for your health and is a good stress reliever. It allows you to be one with nature.” Shine continued to talk about how visiting these local parks is a rewarding experience and is a good way to bond with family and friends highlighting that “It’s a good way to get exercise and also have a good conversation.”

Not only is outdoor time a great way to get some exercise, but it can improve nearly every aspect of your life. It can decrease muscle tension, cortisol levels, and heart rate. It can also increase your motivation. This can lead to a positive feedback loop in which you are even more motivated to go outside. Local nature-lover, John King, says that motivation helps with his habit of getting outside. “I know that it will make me feel good and that’s all the motivation I need.” It can also help with more serious issues. It improves sleep quality, life expectancy, and the risk of cancer.
There can also be huge benefits for your mental health. A habit of regularly going outside can lower depression risk, speed up stress recovery, and restore focus and attention. It also allows for stronger social connections and a sense of connection with your community. Getting to see your place of residence under the microscope that is nature is a great way to get to know it better. This feeling of connection can only lead to positive effects in the long run. Evolutionarily, communal connectedness was vital for survival, so now it is imperative for your mental health, fulfillment, and low-stress levels.

All in all, it is evident that getting our in nature is important to improving your social, physical, and mental health. Building a solid habit of it can help you in many aspects of your life. For people in Bucks two of the best places for that are Nocakmixon and Peace Valley, both chalked full with opportunities.