"This contemplative process offers a stress reducing, health promoting opportunity for individuals to complete a mindful walk..."
Two faculty members have transformed UMass Boston’s stretch of the HarborWalk into a meditative Grace Trail®.
Associate Professor of Exercise and Health Sciences Sarah M. Camhi and Senior Lecturer in Nursing Linda Chiofar have co-facilitated and installed a self-guided one-mile walk along the HarborWalk, from the Fox Point dock to Harbor Point housing, meant to promote physical activity and mindfulness and add a stress management tool for students to support their academic success.
The Grace Trail includes five letters — G-R-A-C-E— which invite the following questions to explore while you walk: What am I grateful for? What can I release to move on? What do I need to accept right now? How can I bring courage to my next challenge? What can I embrace as possible?
“This contemplative process offers a stress reducing, health promoting opportunity for individuals to complete a mindful walk while reflecting on ways to enhance their well-being,” Chiofar said.
The trail includes maps, information about this process, and reflective questions.
Camhi and Chiofar hope that people stop, ask, listen, and reflect on each question. Each sign will have a QR code that participants can scan with a smartphone to listen to a self-guided audio Grace Trail® tour. They are also encouraging people using the trail to share a photo or thoughts about their experience at #UMBGrace or #gracetrail on Instagram.
The CNHS faculty members began the project back in January after they received a $1,500 Community Change Grant from America Walks, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing communities and advocates the resources to advance safe, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and be physically active. UMass Boston was one of only 19 organizations to receive a grant, out of 400 applicants.
The process of creating and installing the trail took nearly a year and included hundreds of hours of volunteer staff, student, and faculty time, including the coordination of multiple local, state, and federal agencies.
“The success of this project is due to the energy, enthusiasm and excitement our partners had for this project, as well as the countless volunteer hours,” Camhi said. “We had true collaborators from each agency, people were willing to lend their time, skills, expertise, and feedback to make this happen.”
The trail is modeled after the original waterfront trail in Plymouth, Massachusetts, created by Anne Jolles. The design of the signs was led by senior graphic designer Rose Coveney, with input from Jolles.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a public ceremonial launch and guided walking tour on hold, Camhi and Chiofar felt it was important to open the trail this year.
“After discussions with our community partners, it was clear that we should install the trail for the local residents and community to enjoy during this difficult time,” Chiofar said. “Now more than ever, we need to improve both our physical and mental health with a restorative and reflective activity.”
Grace Trail, Inc. founder, Anne Jolles, agrees: “I am thrilled that users will benefit from the Harborwalk Grace Trail,” Jolles said. “My hope is that this Boston trail will allow both the University of Massachusetts Boston and the local Boston community trail users to build their emotional resilience in a practical and natural way.”
The groups hope to add personalized rock cairns designed by students, staff, faculty, and community members once campus reopens. They are also in the process of adding additional signage to the campus to direct foot traffic to the trails.
“We wanted to create a trail that not only our diverse community of UMass Boston students, faculty, and staff could identify with, but also one that would be useful to the surrounding community residents who utilize the Harborwalk,” Camhi said. “It’s our hope that the trail encourages personal growth and healing for a diverse community.”
The UMass Boston Harborwalk Grace Trail® is modeled after the original Grace Trail in Plymouth Massachusetts, designed by Anne Jolles and provided to UMass Boston under license from Grace Trail, Inc. Should anyone have questions about installing their own Grace Trail, please contact Anne Jolles or visit www.GraceTrail.com.