FRONTENAC, Kan. — Jason Schwartz, project manager for Evergy’s “Green Team,” delivered lumber to FACT, Inc. on Friday to help develop a nature preserve in Frontenac.

FACT, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit corporation that provides philanthropic support to the Crawford County Mental Health Center, purchased the approximately 40 acre nature preserve in 2016 and has been working to secure funding to develop trails, butterfly gardens, picnic areas, and a floating dock, according to a CCMHC press release.

The lumber donation from Evergy will allow FACT, Inc. to build signs, bridges, bases for gardens, and protective shelters. Progress to date includes partial trail creation, construction of benches and bridges, planting of trees and other vegetation, and clearing of brush and trees for fishing areas and trails.

Partnerships to date include grant money awarded by Live Well Crawford County and Evergy for the creation and development of trails. Future projects include Eagle Scout projects to include creation of fire pits with seating areas, benches, and a gazebo type structure.

FACT, Inc. plans to utilize the nature preserve for mental health treatment for individual clients or psychosocial therapy groups via Crawford County Mental Health Center. Michael Ehling, executive administrator of Crawford County Mental Health said he believes the great outdoors is even more important in light of the recent stay-at-home order due to COVID-19.

“It is obvious that children and families are more than ready to get out of confinement,” Ehling said in the release. “However, it can be done safely, especially when in large open spaces exploring and discovering fossils, fishing, bird-watching, or doing something fun like playing in the dirt for kids. These activities are remarkable tools for resetting our body, mind, and spirit.”

When complete, the nature preserve will be reserved for mental health therapy Monday through Thursday to accommodate HIPPA and confidentiality, available for scheduled groups on Fridays such as schools, churches, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.

The goal of creating the nature preserve is to promote environmental, educational, and cultural enrichment and will foster awareness of a natural setting. It aims to enhance the quality of life through artistic inspiration, spiritual connection, physical fitness, mental and physical health, and exploration.

Benefits the CCMHC aims to achieve through the nature preserve include reversed fatigue, varied learning environment, enhanced social cohesion and support, positive physical and mental health, lowered risk of depression and anxiety, and positive effects on mood and aspects of cognitive function.

Programs increasing nature contact have identified beneficial effects on personality development, cognitive functioning, attitude and behavior. Nature is associated with good mental health, enhanced learning and development in children, help with learning and behavioral disorders, and effectiveness in reducing antisocial and delinquent behavior.

Multiple health and trail organizations have sponsored studies showing the health benefits of trails. Trails provide a low-cost opportunity for people of all income levels to control, maintain, or improve their health in relationship to mental health, weight, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, again, heart disease, hypertension, and back pain.