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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.

From farmer to teacher, Brooke Wilkinson now works to bring music to young children throughout the region. She lives with her husband and two children in Strafford, Vermont.
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