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Could Port Moody’s forests and parks be used for ‘nature therapy’?

A report being presented to Port Moody council on Tuesday suggests nature therapy could become part of the city's plan to manage its urban forests.
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Port Moody's Bert Flinn Park has become a popular destination for dog walkers, hikers, runners and cyclists since it was formally created by city council in 1999 following a public referendum.

Instead of prescribing two aspirins and a follow-up call the next morning, health care professionals in Port Moody could soon be recommending a walk in the park.

Tuesday, council will consider a report from the city’s environmental protection committee that champions opportunities for forest and nature therapy as part of Port Moody’s urban forest management strategy.

In his report, committee coordinator Philip Lo said the city could explore opportunities like a partnership with BC Parks Foundation’s prescription for nature program to develop nature therapy spaces in local parks.

The program’s director, Dr. Melissa Lem, said spending time in natural environments can help reduce stress, improve performance in kids living with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and just generally help everyone’s health and well-being.

In Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association has partnered with Hike Ontario and Conservation Ontario to create Mood Walks, a province-wide initiative that promotes physical activity in nature.

According to the program’s manual, “green exercise” also helps mental well-being by improving participants’ mood and confidence. It has social benefits as well, including opportunities to develop communication skills and reduce social barriers to participating in physical activity.

Lo said Port Moody’s urban forest management strategy is in the early stages of development, but already considers the psychological benefits of the city’s forest and natural spaces.

He added their therapeutic potential could be incorporated as well.