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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Wilkinson: State Park Prescription

I was excited to hear about the Park Prescription Program - in which a handful of Vermont doctors prescribe visits to the great outdoors in the form of free Vermont State Park passes. This is definitely a prescription worth filling now that summer is here.I used to be a stubborn “I don’t need to pay to sleep outside” camper, but now I’m a changed outdoors-woman. I may still occasionally look for an off the radar spot to pitch my tent, but recently I’ve more often chosen to lay my nylon-covered head somewhere inside a Vermont State Park, be it a remote site which requires a canoe to get to, or a drive-in site right next to the bathrooms. And for campers averse to tents, there are lean-tos, cabins, and even an inn as part of the park system.

If you’re not inclined to sleep over at all, that’s not a problem. You can get a day pass to enjoy what we campers do: fishing, swimming, horseback riding, hiking, and boating, on both lakes and rivers. There are even playgrounds for those who prefer man-made structures. And no matter what, you’ll be in a beautiful location.

Plus, the Vermont State Park website is easy-peasy. Users click on boxes that describe different features and specify where in the park system they can be found. Clicking on a specific campsite produces a picture of the actual spot. And whenever I’ve needed to call for more info, I’ve always found the park rangers to be helpful and friendly. Whether I wanted to know if people would be staying in adjacent sites because I was concerned about bringing my dog - or asked the rangers to describe their own favorite spots, I’ve always gotten a good-natured response.

And these parks are so close that it’s possible to pack up on a morning whim and be at a remote spot by suppertime. In fact, this accessibility convinced me to take my six month old camping last summer. My husband had to work but I was missing camping and needed some mom bravery. Worst case scenario, I’d drive home. But after a walk in the woods and a splash in the river, my son and I spent our early evening dining by the fire. As he drifted off to sleep, I sat watching the moon rise and listening to the crickets harmonize with the notes of a lone guitar, wafting over to us from a nearby campsite.

It was just what the doctor ordered.