Mother Nature calling: You can now get a prescription to go outside in Canada

Feb 2 2022, 1:23 am

It’s been a long, dark past two years, and British Columbians have been missing the great outdoors. 

BC Parks has a solution. With the pandemic making it constantly difficult to exercise and enjoy regular fitness routines, folks need incentives to get some fresh air. That’s why it’s starting Parks Prescriptions for getting outdoors, complete with free entry to parks for a year.

“Parks Prescriptions began as a grassroots movement in the United States over a decade ago, and have now spread to countries around the world,” says the Park Prescriptions website.

It is Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program.

Doctors will be prescribing the passes based on proximity to the parks and how much patients need them.

Once they have the prescription, patients are granted free access to more than 80 parks across the country.

The pass can also be prescribed by physicians in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

“The petition really came from an understanding based on research by physicians, researchers, and healthcare professionals on the benefits of time in nature to people’s physical and mental health,” said Andrew Day, CEO of BC Parks. 

“Countries like New Zealand have invested quite a lot in creating nature-based prescription programs, and they’ve been very cost-effective ways of increasing individual and population health while decreasing expenditures on healthcare.” 

He’s seeing more and more doctors prescribing time in nature as they reach out about the program. 

BC Parks and Parks Canada are in a three-year agreement. As part of that, they will revisit the number of passes based on demand as time goes by.

It’s up to doctors’ discretion whether or not they grant you a pass, but Day says they’ll prioritize people who face barriers to getting outside.

Removing the financial barrier to getting a park pass makes them more accessible to low-income folks who may not otherwise be able to afford them.

Without a prescription, it would cost $72.25 for adults, $61.75 for seniors, and $145.25 for a family annually. Youth 17 and under can already get in for free.

“We do know that the physicians themselves are the ones who will prescribe the time in nature and then decide whether the person would really benefit from a particular free pass or discount.”

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