Starting this spring, local doctors will begin writing prescriptions for people that are good for free entrance into state and national parks and community recreation centers.
Plans for park prescriptions were kicked around last year at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
Superintendent Scott Tucker said the national park was ready to launch its own program, but realized the idea could become a regional effort. The national park is partnering with Astoria Parks and Recreation, Sunset Empire Parks and Recreation District in Seaside, Clatsop County Public Health and the Way to Wellville.
The prescription program, known as Rx: 4 Play, will be available at Providence Seaside Hospital, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Coastal Family Health Center.
“My plan was to use some of our resources to get this going and then turn it over to the community,” Tucker said. “That is where we are right now.”
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Association donated about $2,000 to start offering park prescriptions. With a doctor’s permission, people can get an Oregon Coast Pass that is good for one year of free parking at state and national parks on the North Coast.
For prescriptions to the recreation centers in Astoria and Seaside, funds came from a $10,000 Providence Health and Services grant. Those with a prescription will receive a $50 punch card to the recreation centers, giving people an introduction to health resources in Clatsop County.
“We are trying to encourage people to be better self-managers of their health,” Debbie Morrow, a Way to Wellville director, said.
The prescription pads have been printed, and could be in doctor’s offices as soon as next month. The partners are meeting this month to iron out final details.
Looking ahead, Tucker said, additional funding will be sought to study the program and determine the actual physical health benefits. The program is geared toward people who are obese, diabetic or could simply benefit from more activity.
Tucker has seen successful versions of the program done by national parks across the country.
“There are many of these programs nationwide,” Tucker said. “I have not seen one as tied to the community as this one.”