Get Up & Moving: Jacksonville Parks to Go Walking In

June 14, 2017
4 mins read

We are extremely fortunate to live in an environment ideally suited for getting off your couch potato butt and get actively involved. Few other places offers the variety of resources being offered here in Jacksonville. Our mayor has just announced his new Journey To OneEvery One In Every Zip Code Lives Well designed as a citywide health initiative to provide, strengthen and bolster initiatives that improve personal and community health throughout Jacksonville. Improving health is a journey. There are adventures in fitness waiting for you whether it be bicycling, hiking, paddling or strolling the many trails that abound Northeast Florida.

The mission of Tree Hill Nature Center is to promote environmental stewardship through hands-on educational programs and low-cost access to natural areas. This allows our staff and volunteers to enjoy sharing information with the public, from the story of we came to have the brown bear in our entrance way, proper care of our animals, and the importance of protecting native plants and animals. The programs we offer to children across the First Coast are full of curriculum complementing facts, but are also just fun for our educators! Tree Hill is proud to share its land for this purpose and enjoys meeting visitors who are awed at such a pristine swath of land in the heart of Jacksonville.

At Tree Hill, we tout the benefits of spending time outside in the natural world, whether kayaking on the St. Johns, swinging in a hammock under a tree or walking through a community garden. We see the impact it has on people, the wonder in the eyes of students who have never walked a wooded path let alone met a box turtle on their travels. We hear about the adventures of a retired couple who take photographs on the trails each week. We feel a sense of calm and peace when we wander the park before it opens to the public for the day. Yet, we wonder if the science supports our anecdotal evidence. In the last few years there has been more and more research done to document the physiological effects of spending time in the natural word.

A 2014 study, ‘Influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation in Young Adults’ was done in partnership between the Korean forest service, Japanese forest service, and Finnish forest service, as well as their respective universities. The study had a small sample, but focused on healthy men and the impact of forest walks on their bodily systems compared with the impact of urban walks on their heart rate and blood pressure. The results were impressive, showing significant impact to heart rate, anxiety levels, and mood elevation in the forest walks over the urban walks. Full details of the study can be found by visiting

A 2015 study, ‘Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation’ was another small sample study that had significant findings. The study looked deeper at warding off and mitigating depression. Rumination is when an individual focuses too heavily on negative feelings and emotions, which is closely tied to depression and other mental disorders. Thirty eight adults with no history of mental illness were studied to see the impact of a 90 minute walk in an urban area versus a 90 minute walk in a natural space. The brain scans conducted throughout the study showed significant impact on brain function in the natural space group. The full study can be found at

More easily understood books and newspaper articles are coming out based upon these findings. Check out the work of Richard Louv, David Orr, or Bill McKibben. A google search for ‘benefits of playing outdoors’ or ‘benefits of being in nature’ are fruitful and can provide motivation for incorporating a ten minute walk in the woods into your day or visiting the beach once a week for some exploring and maybe some yoga moves. Give it a try for a month and see how different you feel! As always, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to email us at, give us a call at 724-4646 or visit us on Facebook. We are open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 4:30pm.

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Mayorthon As part of efforts to boost exercise and healthy activity, Mayor Curry is encouraging Jacksonville citizens to run or walk 26.2 miles every month with his Mayorthon. June’s Mayorthon will be  at the FSCJ North Campus, 4501 Capper Rd. on June 10, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.




Every One In Every Zip Code Lives Well

Jacksonville is ranked number 55 for quality health outcomes (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). According to Mayor Lenny Curry, “This is unacceptable, leading me to sound the alarm with Journey to One, a citywide campaign I’m launching to improve our health. Each one of us shares a responsibility. There’s work we must do as individuals to improve our personal health, and there’s work we must do as city leaders to improve our community health. Both are integral to our mission of ensuring that every citizen in every zip code lives well. With Journey to One, we commit to building and strengthening partnerships that promote nutrition, exercise, walkability, weight loss, disease prevention, and safety in all communities.”

The Journey to One is a health initiative to provide, strengthen initiatives that improve personal and community health throughout Jacksonville. When faced with daily choices, people can find the process overwhelming and difficult. It is critical that we understand that each day is an opportunity to build a pattern of healthier choices. The City of Jacksonville has examined and identified some key activities and programs to assist. For more info visit:

Personal Health

With personal wellness, we’re focusing on helping citizens make better choices when it comes to exercise, nutrition, weight management, disease prevention, and mental well-being. Maintaining your mental health is just as important as staying in shape. Journey to One is working with many community health partners to help citizens take care of their mental and emotional health and well-being.

Exercise Research supports that exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of many chronic conditions. In addition to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, physical activity can also reduce the risk of depression. Running is one of the mayor’s greatest past-times, an activity that allows him the opportunity to enjoy various parts of the city and downtown Jacksonville. While all may not opt to lace up for a fast-paced run, walking is a great opportunity to get out, explore and burn some calories.

A Walk in the Park

The City of Jacksonville is home to the nation’s largest urban park system. There are 12 parks throughout the city with distance-marked paths and trails. Each month, the City will host a walk in one of its beautiful parks.

Parks with paved walking paths:

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail – 14.5 miles
S-Line Rail Trail – 4.5 miles
Lonnie Miller Park – 0.6 miles
Bob Hayes Sports Complex – 0.5 miles
Riverview Park – 0.2 miles
James Field Park – 0.3 miles
Ed Austin Regional Park – 1.7 miles
Drew Park – 0.5 miles
Losco Regional Park – 0.5 miles
Woodstock Park – 0.5 miles

Parks with unpaved trails with marked distances:

Losco Park Regional Park – 3.1 miles (5k)
Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve – 5k, 2 mile, 3 mile, and 5 mile marked routes

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