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Outdoor Cure: Canada Doctors Begin Prescribing National Park Passes

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Is prescription outdoor activity right for you? Talk to your doctor about getting a Canadian National Parks pass for free.

In Canada, taking the natural cure is no longer strictly a figure of speech. Physicians and psychiatrists in British Columbia and other provinces are writing prescriptions for spending time in nature as part of mental health protocols through a new initiative.

The British Columbia (BC) Parks Foundation partnered with Parks Canada to form the Prescribe Nature Initiative. Participating doctors can give patients access to a Parks Canada Discovery Pass (usually $72) for free. The pass gets the patient into 80 parks throughout Canada, like the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve or Glacier National Park.

Prescriptions can range from spending 15 minutes outside in a local park during lunch all the way to the annual parks pass.

The participating organizations developed it due to excessive time spent indoors during COVID-19 quarantine.

“During COVID, I think everyone really recognized the importance and benefit of getting outside — in a variety of ways,” Andrew Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation, told CKPG News in Prince George. He added that substantial research also shows that “time in nature can be beneficial for a whole range of health challenges.”

The Prescribe Nature Initiative is the first evidence-based nature prescription program in Canada.

ParkRx does similar work in the United States on a recommendation basis. As of now, the group won’t pay for a year-round National Parks pass. But mark your calendar; International Park Prescription (ParkRx) Day will allow free entry for all to U.S. National Parks on April 17.

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