SIDNEY — Signs placed along popular walking paths in Sidney encourage the practice of mindfulness techniques while enjoying the natural surroundings. The signs are a cooperative project between the Sidney City Park District, the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services and NAMI Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties. The signs were provided at no cost to the Park District.
The series of five signs are located along the Canal Feeder Trail south of the Maple Leaf Court and Vandemark Road trailheads, and along the Veteran’s Memorial Walkway in Tawawa Park. The link between natural spaces and mental wellness has long been established, During the pandemic there has been a general concern for mental health and self-care, especially with mindfulness and anti-anxiety techniques. Walking in the parks is something that can be done safely even during a pandemic, and it goes a long way toward promoting both physical health and mental health.
Tri-County Board Director of Community Resource Development Brad Reed and Mandy Martin, a Tri-County Board member and naturalist with the Darke County Park District, went through several revisions before landing on the “environMENTAL HEALTH” concept. They decided just to do five basic concepts in a simple form that introduces people to the idea of mindfulness and being aware of their surroundings. They also brought NAMI Darke, Miami, and Shelby Counties in as a partner. NAMI is a grassroots organization helping families and individuals with advocacy and education about mental illness.
“Parks have always been a place for people to unwind and find solace in this world and it was even more evident during COVID where some communities saw increases in park and trail usage grow by as much as 75 percent,” said Duane Gaier, city of Sidney Parks director. “The addition of the Mindfulness signs along the Canal Feeder Trail and Veteran’s Memorial Walkway in Tawawa Park will provide an opportunity to improve the mental health of the community.”
Each of the five signs is different as to which concept is being highlighted, but they have some common information as well. This text appears on each of the signs: “MINDFULNESS is the practice of being present in the HERE and NOW, rather than worrying about the past or being anxious about the future. EXPERIENCING NATURE with mindful curiosity promotes good mental health, renews mind and body, and contributes to resilience in the face of challenges.” The signs have a QR code linking to the Tri-County Board website for more information about self-care and resilience, www.tcbmds.org/resilience. Reed said the Board has placed signs in Darke County parks, Miami County parks, and Sidney City Parks.
“The Tri-County Board serves Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties, so we’d like to have the same presence in all three counties,” Reed said. “We are excited to partner with organizations in our communities to promote mental wellness and resilience. The parks are a great place to relax, unwind and reset our perspectives, so that’s a natural partnership that I hope will continue.”
Marking the installation of mental health signs in the Sidney City Parks are, left to right, NAMI Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties Board Members Cyndi Fritz and Molly Helmlinger, Sidney City Parks Director Duane Gaier, and Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services Board Members Ann Runner and Rod Austin.