Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Parents, communities take note: Teens need nature too.

02/09/18 | View Comments

Over the past decade, parents of young children have been told repeatedly by experts of many stripes: make sure your children are given ample opportunity to spend time outdoors. The benefits to young bodies and minds are many: Greater confidence, increased creativity, reduced stress, to name a few.

Yet, similar missives have been largely absent when it comes to teens. Sure, as a parent, the challenge of encouraging a 14-year old, who would rather be in her room on her smartphone, to amble outdoors is an altogether different situation than chasing after an eager six-year-old itching for the opportunity to climb a tree.

But the fact is, with experts sounding an alarm about the swelling rates of depression and anxiety among teens, we should be thinking of nature as equally essential to our older children as to our younger ones; equally essential to their health and wellbeing.

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A DC Firesoul takes a trip down South

01/26/18 | View Comments

Steve Coleman meets with Alabama Community Foundation as it prepares to bring “Sacred Places” to the state

A few months ago, we received an email from a community foundation in Alabama; the kind of mail that sends a ripple of excitement through our office. The foundation, one of several we’d mailed a copy of our book — Open Spaces Sacred Places: Stories of How Nature Heals and Unifies — had been struck by what they saw and read.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, which serves nine counties in the northeast corner of the state, saw in the Sacred Places concept, a new path for working to improve community health. Our message had resonated; in this area of the country far removed from our current footprint, we had successfully planted a seed.

To help introduce the idea to their community, they asked that we send someone to speak at the foundation’s annual gathering of state and community leaders; community members and foundation trustees and supporters. We turned to one of our longest serving Firesouls, Steve Coleman, who is also the longtime executive director and president of Washington Parks & People.

Steve was a Firesoul before we coined the term. The greenspaces he’s helped cultivate are found in some of DC’s most challenged neighborhoods. They include Meridian Hill and Marvin Gaye Park. He’s worked for decades bringing together people and nature.

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Meet Elizabeth!

01/24/18 | View Comments

When you’re a mighty, nimble organization with big goals, you’re conscientious about who you ask to join your team. Not everyone is willing to eat, drink and sleep All Things Nature Sacred—while keeping an organized, cool head about it.

Which is why we’re delighted to introduce you to our latest hire, Elizabeth Dandy. Elizabeth embodies a unique DNA that aligns beautifully with the Nature Sacred culture—she’s a true believer in the healing powers of nature, a deep thinker, a passionate citizen. Further, she’s got the organizational chops from over 15 years experience serving fast-paced employers: an impeccable attention to detail, clear communications, a penchant for planning. You know, the things you need to keep everything moving swimmingly.

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Urban escape.

01/12/18 | View Comments


“…This is a place to ‘know’ your dreams and feelings about life can almost come true,” Holly continued.

This Bench Story comes to us from West Baltimore—the neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. This Sacred Place is tucked within a busy city intersection—an intersection working to restore health, hope and wellbeing to a community grappling with decades of poverty—and the challenges that can bring. This is the Intersection of Change. Learn more its story here.

This small, but meaningful park was built where dilapidated, vacant row homes previously stood—and offers its community an accessible, nearby means to heal, restore itself and dream. As Holly did.

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Erin Robertson: Looking ahead to 2018

01/12/18 | View Comments

TKF’s new Executive Director, Erin Robertson, talks where TKF is today, and what you can expect from us in the coming months and year.

I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be leading TKF. This is an organization that has worked incredibly hard for more than two decades to bring nature to individuals and communities, particularly those challenged and in distress. From day one of our existence, at a time when saying “nature heals” was considered fringe thinking, we’ve understood that this nature connection is essential to our basic wellbeing.

And this profound connection is evidenced in the hundreds of thousands of entries we have collected from the little yellow bench journals we’ve collected through the years and shared via our blog with the title Bench Stories.We are repeatedly humbled by the stories that surface; the voices of men, women, and children who, given the opportunity to pause and reflect in nature,  share truly profound thoughts, raw feelings and emotions as they process the fast-paced world around them. As they heal, strengthen and grow — through nature. It’s this work, directly supporting and enabling moments like these, to which we’ll return our focus in 2018.

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New Year brings new direction and new executive director at the TKF Foundation

12/30/17 | View Comments

Some exciting changes are afoot here at the TKF Foundation – ones that will see us shifting our focus and digging deeply into the network of Open Spaces we have worked to help cultivate over the past two-plus decades. A central part of these changes is our welcoming of Erin Robertson as our new executive director.

Erin is taking over for Mary Wyatt, who is retiring after more than 20 years; during which time we funded more than 130 greenspaces, and the National Nature Sacred Award Program.

Incoming Executive Director Erin Robertson

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At National League of Cities Conference, a budding interest in urban greenspaces

12/18/17 | View Comments

We were on the ground—and the agenda—at one of the largest conferences for city leaders in the US. Following, some soundbites on what we learned.


Recently, Jay Graham, FASLA and long-time TKF advisor, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, where more than 4000 municipal leaders from throughout the country had convened for the 2017 City Summit conference led by the National League of Cities. Our short documentary film, Butterfly Angels, which tells the story of how nature helped one Joplin community heal following the deadly cluster of tornadoes that struck there 6 years ago, was being screened; part of a program of speakers and workshops addressing ways to strengthen cities and towns.

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What do we mean by “open”?

12/07/17 | View Comments

Quite a few things, really—good things.

At Nature Sacred, we’ve honed a unique formula to infuse greenspaces into urban communities in the name of improved health, wellbeing and unity. At its core lies an ethos centered around being “open”. And let’s face it, the term open is a bit, well, open.

Let’s put a finer point on what we mean.

Physically Open

Every Sacred Place must be designed to welcome all visitors—accessible to the public. No locked gates, buildings to pass through, or fences to serve as barriers; rather, we encourage at least one open portal to gladly receive visitors of all kinds. This portal could archway, a gate, a stand of trees, a pergola, or other marker—intended to invite people into a safe, sacred space in nature; apart from the everyday stress and fracas.

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Can nature play a positive role before and after birth?

11/30/17 | View Comments

Photo credit: Legacy Health



Located at the threshold of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s second floor Family Birth Center, is A Nature Place, a therapeutic green space where on any given day you’ll find laboring mothers rocking in chairs; newly minted siblings gathering with expanded families, surrounded by green.

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A better way to fight neighborhood crime

11/24/17 | View Comments

While there’s been a nationwide decline in crime rates over the past two-and-a-half decades, it’s still an issue that claims a lot of oxygen and ink. And for good reason.

Though all kinds of initiatives, like better policing, have been credited for the improved statistics, some people believe the answer relies in large part to softer initiatives born in the neighborhoods that are actually bearing the struggle; efforts supported by nonprofits of many stripes.

One example: the creation of neighborhood greenspaces, of which there is often a dearth of in distressed neighborhoods. This is a cause we have been committed to for over two decades. Public health studies in recent years have noted the absence or inadequate presence of trees, parks and open spaces in underserved areas. This was noted in a report we released in 2014 titled Environmental Equality; Providing Nearby Nature for Everyone.

Since that report was released, attention to this particular inequality has continued to grow.

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    TKF Foundation

    410 Severn Avenue,
    Suite 216
    Annapolis, MD

    Tel: 410.268.1376

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    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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