The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) has developed a process for certifying Forest Therapy Trails to increase awareness and the practice of Forest Therapy and to offer land managers a new marketing and programming opportunity.
The concept of Forest Bathing, also known as Forest Therapy, is gaining global recognition as an evidence-based approach to wellness and health. Forest Bathing sessions consist 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.
Trail certification provides a new method for engaging your members, the public, and developing new partnerships. Let people know that your site is a place where they can experience forest therapy. Health care organizations, employee wellness programs, and groups that promote healthy living are potential partners for developing Forest Therapy programs.
Having signs promoting a designated Forest Therapy trail increases public awareness of the health benefits of being in forests. People who see the trail sign will likely have their curiosity piqued about Forest Therapy and want more information about the practice and where they can find Forest Therapy scheduled events. This is an opportunity to direct them to your programming.
A Forest Therapy Trail is a path or area where people of a wide range of fitness levels can interact with nature, primarily through their senses. They do not always conform to typical ideas of what constitutes a trail. Some trails are found in more traditional settings, like arboreta and botanical gardens, while other places might include spas, nature-adventure parks, hospital gardens, farms, urban parks retreat centers, and others.
We consider trails for certification based initially on criteria such as accessibility, safety, biodiversity, natural features, and management. We also consider how infrastructure and signage can promote both guided and self-guided Forest Therapy experiences on the trail. We strive to affirm the beauty and dignity of all ecosystems, and so ask yourself, "Is this a place where people connect deeply with nature?" If the answer is yes, then this is probably a good candidate trail.
If you think your trail is a good candidate, first complete the Trail Certification Interest form. Once we receive your form, we will connect you with an ANFT Guide Consultant who will assist you with the certification process. Consultants are ANFT-Certified Forest Therapy Guides who have additional training in trail assessment and certification.
When you meet with an ANFT Guide Consultant they will request a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the land managers and ANFT regarding the benefits and responsibilities of trail certification. This is a standard template provided by ANFT. Land managers are also required to sign an agreement between themselves and the ANFT Guide Consultant detailing the benefits and responsibilities of contracting the consultant. Signed agreements and a deposit of $500 to ANFT are required before proceeding to Phase 1.
The focus is on assessing the trail, offering recommendations for trail modifications, and on matching forest therapy invitations to specific places along the trail. The consultant will conduct an on-site visit and complete the trail application, trail assessment, trail recommendations forms, a trail map and document the trail with photo and video.
Once your documents have been reviewed and approved by the main office, you will move into Phase 2. In this phase, land managers are responsible for making all recommended essential improvements to the trail and should consider the non-essential trail improvements as well. Your consultant will be available to answer questions during this process.
Once improvements are completed, contact your consultant to document and submit these for approval to Phase 3. The second payment of $500 to ANFT must be made before Phase 3.
Your consultant will return to revise your Trail Assessment form, document site improvements, and within a few weeks you should receive your official status as a Certified Forest Therapy Trail. Congratulations!