Guiding in the Age of COVID-19
Updated 25 July 2020

Disclaimer:

Ideas in this document pertaining to guiding are not medically proven or based on evidence. Always give official recommendations from health organizations priority over the ideas offered here. Use these ideas at your own risk; ANFT is not responsible for any spread of disease that may occur during walks guided by ANFT-trained guides. If you are not willing to accept full responsibility for the safety of your guiding practices DO NOT GUIDE in-person walks.

ANFT Guides operate globally, so the recommendations and ideas in this document should be adapted for the area where you guide. COVID-19 guidelines for each region can vary. It is each guide’s responsibility to know and follow your local guidelines. In addition, refer to recommendations of national and local governments and organizations such as The Centers for Disease Control (in the United States) and the World Health Organization (worldwide).

This document offers ideas on how to adapt guided Forest Therapy walks in particular. It describes promising ideas that ANFT has gleaned from guides. These ideas should not supersede official recommendations. Do not do anything that is in conflict with your region’s local guidelines.

Safety Protocols
Align with and follow your local governmental policies. Check your region’s website for its policies for outdoor recreation.
As an example, here are links to the state of Massachusetts website. Guidance and directives related to the reopening of outdoor recreational activities and businesses in the Commonwealth, along with links to some specific outdoor recreation sectors that may be more closely related to guiding forest therapy: Parks, Open Space, and Outdoor Education Programs Zoos, Wildlife Reserves, Botanical Gardens Ecotourism

Stop the spread     
Do only what is safe for you, your participants and their families. Don’t forget about all the 2nd+ level contact possibilities.

Setting the Container for COVID-19 safety      
From the moment guides first greet participants, set and maintain the container. Stepping into the role of enforcing certain guidelines is not always comfortable for guides but it is important when safety is concerned. Be ready to enforce the safety guidelines you put in place. Are you ready to send someone home if they exhibit symptoms?

Guides in Practicum: ANFT asked guides in practicum to guide no more than two people at a time during practicum, or
else guide virtual walks.

Certified Guides: Following local and state/regional government and trail capacity, should determine what is a safe and feasible number to guide in person. Comply with your local regulations on maximum gathering sizes. How many people can you comfortably monitor for physical distancing if you don’t have an assistant? Do not exceed this number. If all safety and physical distancing recommendations cannot be met then it is not safe to guide. If you are not willing and able to enforces social distancing and  other protective measures then do not guide.

Trail Selection: It may be best to use an open space location where you can do a “pulse-style walk” rather than a “trail walk”. Use only trails with ample space for participants to properly physical distance and easily maintain a 6-foot or greater distance at all times. Assess your trail and re-assess on trail-by-trail and walk-by-walk basis. Limit the number of participants to match the capacity for physical distancing of the trail? If a trail does not meet these criteria, DON’T USE IT.

Hospitality and Introduction: Setting the container for the walk begins with hospitality and the introduction. This will be true of setting the tone for COVID-19 safety protocols on your walk as well.  The hospitality part of the walk (greeting in the parking lot or at the trailhead) is a critical moment. What guidelines will you use and how will you add them  to your hospitality and introduction? Does the trail have hand washing facilities? Do you feel that is a requirement for you or not?

Gathering, Sharing and Listening: Make gathering together safe. Ask participants to stay at least six feet or more apart. Have participants hold out their arms to space out, making sure they do not touch one another. Ask participants to collect something to mark their spot, to which they may return each time while gathering together. This approach requires pulse-style walks. Once all participants have settled in, guides should offer the standard prompts.

Threshold of Incorporation or Serving Tea: Before COVID-19 the Threshold of Connection had primarily been about Serving Tea and the casual social time after tea when we walk back to the trail head. Due to Covid-19, we do not recommend serving tea and snacks at this time. The opportunity is to find creative ways to manage the Threshold of Incorporation without tea. Consider having participants bring their own tea and snacks. Be mindful of how to manage this, as participants will be removing their masks to eat and drink.