curing the “nature deficit disorder”

View of Santee, with San Diego River to north, 1915 (courtesy,

Though I have been many places around the world, I have spent most of my life within an hour or two, from the coast. Any study of a world map will show, most of humanity lives clustered near the coast or other waterways. And the closer people live together, the less there are natural or park-like areas, beaches, bays, or lakes within easy reach. With a comfortable climate year round, and many things to draw people to visit or reside here, coastal ( to perhaps 25- 30 miles inland) Southern California is a highly-desired, congested but expensive place to be, and to raise a family. With that congestion and the increasing expense, some search for reasons to stay here. As a dog-man, and being semi-retired now, I contend much less with stressing over commuting (I admit I no longer do), and as my wife and I have taken some lifestyle and environmentally-prudent steps in the past 20 years, somewhat less over social, environment, and political change in California. I spend more time outdoors. Though commenting about children, to me as a dog-man, and of course, other adults, Santee, California’s Director of Community Services, Bill Maertz are true. “( ) have a nature deficit disorder, there’s too much time with screens, TVs and stuff ” .

Mast Park, 2020

On the occasion of the February re-opening, with renovated walking trails, a frisbee golf course, new facilities, an updated off-leash dog park with separate areas for smaller as well as larger dogs, and more areas for people to be active, I found the Santee community park has been years in the making. This is a well-planned, pleasant, natural buffer park along their section of the riparian watershed (San Diego River) that flows from the Cuyamaca mountains to the sea. With more community-use and environmental-rejuvenation in future, the regional plan envisions public access trails from the mountain community of Julian, along the river to where it empties into the sea.

While all urban areas and particularly California has a lot of challenges and competing priorities, taking a dog-walk from the mountains of East San Diego County down to Dog Beach at the ocean, sounds like a great adventure. While Dexter might be up for the challenge, I believe Comet and I will encourage him to take it two miles at a time.


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