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How Parks and Recreation Can Support Mental Health Initiatives

Programs and Initiatives

While park and recreation professionals are not typically experts in mental health, agencies can play an
important role in helping those with mental health challenges by working with experts to provide
programs and services for individuals in need. Following are a few examples of programs and initiatives
that are already underway.

Surf Therapy

In August 2019, the New York Times featured A Walk on Water, a nonprofit organization offering
therapeutic surfing courses for children with special needs and disabilities. These programs have mainly
taken place in Southern California, but are gaining momentum and have now reached as far as Virginia
Beach. The International Surf Therapy Organization also features  AmpSurf , which provides surf clinics to
disabled adults and children, but has a particular focus on disabled veterans.

Park RX

Parks across the country can also participate in Park Rx, which facilitates “prescription” programs that
often include a collaboration between park and public land agencies, healthcare providers and
community partners. With the overall goal of improving health and wellbeing, there are affiliated
initiatives in almost every state. Nationwide and internationally, Walk with a Doc spearheads free,
doctor-led walking groups where participants can engage in conversations around health and wellness in
a relaxed, fun setting. This program, which is notably active in Boulder, Colorado, can be particularly
useful in giving people the chance to connect and seek help without the fear of being stigmatized,
which studies have shown to still be widespread, despite growing public awareness of mental health


Forest Bathing

Another walking-based initiative agencies have begun to explore is forest bathing. Forest bathing, known
as shinrin-yoku, or “taking in the forest,” in Japanese, is a guided walk through nature where participants
are encouraged to pay attention to sound, touch, smell — anything that can trigger the senses. The
ultimate goal is to ease stress and experience mindfulness, which is a common treatment for anxiety and
other mental health disorders. Walk with a Doc and Park Rx have begun offering Forest Bathing options,
and many agencies around the country, including in Centennial, Ohio; Boulder, Colorado; and Roanoke,
Virginia, have partnered with guides to lead sessions.

Mental Health

Our industry has much to offer for those struggling with mental health challenges; it’s just a matter of
having an awareness of this serious problem in our country and ensuring we reach out to professionals
and individuals in assisting those who struggle. We all endeavor to create health and wellness
opportunities for our communities. Being involved in mental health initiatives is just one more way we
can make a difference for those we serve.
(October 31, 2019, Feature, by Barbara Heller and Molly Young)


Cody Parks & Public Facilities
(307) 527-5275


1. City Park
2. Paul Stock Park
3. Don Little Park
4. Horseshoe Park
5. Glendale Park
6. Beck Lake Park
7. Vietnam Memorial
8. Dacken Park
9. Greybull Hill
10. Highland Manor Park
11. Mentock Park
12. Circle Drive Park
13. Nielson Park
14. Hugh Smith Park and Recreation Area
15. East Sheridan Softball Complex
16. Shoshone Riverway Trail Access
17. Valley View Park
18. River View Park
19. Heart Mountain Street Landscaping
20. Shadow Mountain Park
21. Meadowbrook Park
22. Paul Stock Nature Trail
23. Canal Park

Public Facilities
1. Cody Auditorium
2. Miniature Golf Course
3. Paul Stock Aquatic and Recreation Center
4. Cody Main Street Restrooms

Youth Clubs of Park County
(307) 527-7871

Best Free Things to Do in Cody

1. Buffalo Bill Dam
2. Shoshone National Forest
3. Dead Indian Summit Overlook
4. The Buffalo Bill Reservoir
5. Beartooth Basin

6. Paul Stock Nature Trail

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