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 diverse community members, public health providers and patients, national and international tourists, and a wide array of partners in the development and implementation of Certified Forest Therapy Trail systems. Health care organizations, employee wellness programs, municipalities and park systems, public and private forest land managers, universities, organizations that promote healthy living, and many more, are potential partners for developing Forest Therapy programs and trails.
Maintaining signage promoting designated Forest Therapy Trails increases public awareness of the health benefits of being in forests. An official ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Trail sign will likely pique the curiosity of visitors and propel them to seek more information about Forest Therapy and associated events and programming.
A Forest Therapy Trail is a path or green space where people along a broad spectrum of fitness levels can interact with nature and forests, primarily through their senses. Forest Therapy Trails do not always conform to typical ideas of what constitutes a trail. Some Forest Therapy Trails may be 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, universities, public or private forest lands, conservancies and other unique settings.
ANFT considers 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 space is probably a good Forest Therapy Trail candidate.
If you think your trail is a good candidate, first complete the Trail Certification Application form. Once we receive your form, we will connect you with an ANFT Trail 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 Trail Consultant, they will request a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the land manager and ANFT regarding the benefits and responsibilities of trail certification. This is a standard MOU template provided by ANFT. Land managers are also required to sign an agreement with the ANFT Trail Consultant detailing the benefits and responsibilities of contracting the consultant services. Signed agreements and a deposit of $500 to ANFT are required before proceeding to Phase 1.
Phase 1 focus is on assessing the trail, offering recommendations for trail modifications, and matching Forest Therapy invitations to specific places along the trail (in the case of a self-guided selection). 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 photos and videos.
Phase 2 will begin when all documents have been reviewed and approved by ANFT. During 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. The ANFT Trail Consultant will be available to answer questions during this process.
Once improvements are completed, it is the responsibility of the land manager to contact the ANFT Trail Consultant, so the consultant may document and submit improvements and modifications for ANFT approval,and in order to advance to Phase 3. The second payment of $500 to ANFT must be made before initiating Phase 3.
Phase 3 will begin with the ANFT Trail Consultant returning to the site in order to revise the Trail Assessment form, document all site improvements, and meet with the land manager, if needed. Upon submission of all documents to ANFT, the land manager will receive official Certified Forest Therapy Trail status within a few weeks and the new ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Trail will be added to the ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Trail map on the ANFT website. ANFT looks forward to adding your Certified Forest Therapy Trail to this growing global network!!