Designated Trails, Spas, Retreat Centers

Overview
The concept of Forest Therapy is gaining global recognition as an evidence-based approach to wellness and health. Forest Therapy of gentle walks in which a guide uses a range of techniques aimed primarily at slowing people down from what has become a “normal” frenetic pace, and calling attention to sensory experiences of the forest and its environment.  

Forest Therapy Trail networks are being developed in several parts of the world, notably in Japan, South Korea, and Spain. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs has developed a process for designating Forest Therapy Trails. These are inspired by the process used in Japan, but with an important difference. In Japan, in order to qualify as a Forest Therapy Trail an empirical study must be done, using specific research protocols that measure physiological effects on volunteers who use the trail in the context of guided forest therapy walks. One of many requirements for official trail status is that these studies provide evidence of beneficial effects specific to each particular trail.  

The Association's approach does not require an empirical study. We use our extensive experience of guiding in forests all over the world and rely upon the knowledge we have gained of what makes a suitable trail. Our expert guides have developed a trail assessment rating tool that identifies strengths of any particular trail or place, and opportunities for improvement.

Reasons for Designation
Managers and staff who are stewards of natural areas often embrace as a core part of their mission developing programs that attract people to the land. These programs typically emphasize education related to conservation, and recreational opportunities of many kinds, not the least of which is simply relaxation. Programs of this type often lead to partnerships with education- and recreation-oriented organizations. Increasingly there is a trend toward leveraging time in nature for its beneficial impacts on mental health and overall physical wellness.

The emerging emphasis on the health benefits of forests and natural environments opens new possibilities for partnerships. Health care organizations, employee wellness programs, and groups that promote healthy living in general may be attracted to developing programs related to Forest Therapy.  Posting signs that indicate that a trail has been designated as an appropriate Forest Therapy path also increases public awareness of the health benefits of being in forests. Each person who sees such a sign will likely have their curiosity piqued. Signage can include links to informational websites such as the Association’s where more information is provided.

The Process of Trail Designation
Phase 1
We will connect you with a consultant who will assist you with the rest of the process. Consultants are ANFT-Certified Forest Therapy Guides who have additional training in trail assessment and certification. Read the trail criteria and see if there is a trail in your area of operations that might be a good fit. If so, review it with your consultant and together use the scoring instrument to make a preliminary assessment.  

Phase 2
The focus is on making trail improvements, and on matching forest therapy invitations to specific places along the trail.   After making all priority improvements (those rated “essential” during the collaborative assessment) you will send photographs and other documentation (if available) to demonstrate compliance.  

Phase 3
Together with your consultant and ANFT staff, you will revise your Trail Assessment. We anticipate that at this point you will become eligible for official status as a Designated Forest Therapy Trail. We formalize this milestone with a written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Fees
Fees vary depending upon location and situation. For more information contact us with the form below, or email Ben Page at ben@natureandforesttherapy.org.

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