Walking has its rewards for Paul Perensovich at Sitka National Historical Park

Ann Wilkinson of the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation and Sitka National Historical Park Ranger Ryan Carpenter draw the winning entrant's name in the quarterly drawing of the Park Prescriptions Program. In the program, local health providers prescribe regular hikes for their patients, and those who complete their punch cards are entered into a quarterly drawing for a $100 cash prize. Paul Perensovich was the Spring 2014 winner. (Photo Courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park)

Ann Wilkinson of the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation and Sitka National Historical Park Ranger Ryan Carpenter draw the winning entrant’s name in the quarterly drawing of the Park Prescriptions Program. In the program, local health providers prescribe regular hikes for their patients, and those who complete their punch cards are entered into a quarterly drawing for a $100 cash prize. Paul Perensovich was the Spring 2014 winner. (Photo Courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park)

On Saturday, April 19, Sitka Community Hospital Foundation President Ann Wilkinson, awarded this quarter’s winner of the Park Prescriptions Program with a $100 cash prize. Mike Perensovich, a long-time Sitka resident, Park Watch Volunteer, and Park Prescriptions participant, was the lucky recipient.

Sitka National Historical Park’s award-winning “Park Prescriptions Program” represents a partnership between the National Park Service and various healthcare providers in Sitka. The program provides incentives for the community to get outdoors and exercise to improve health and well-being.

At the drawing, Wilkinson underscored how the “Sitka Community Hospital Foundation is proud to be a sponsor of the Park Prescriptions Program.” She noted that “promoting healthy lifestyle habits is an important part of our mission, and that the Park Prescriptions Program is a great way to encourage walking and enjoying the great outdoors in our National Park.” The foundation announced it will sponsor the program again for another year, providing quarterly $100 prizes for participants who qualify.

Local health providers write park prescriptions to their patients, who fill the park prescriptions by taking walks through the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park. Every time people take a walk, they get a punchcard stamped at the park’s visitor center, and when the punchcard is full it is entered for quarterly prize drawings. The Park Prescriptions Program got its start through the Sitka Health Summit.

For more information on how you can start down the path to wellness by participating in the Park Prescriptions Program ask any uniformed Sitka National Historical Park staff or visit www.nps.gov/sitk.

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Sitka National Historical Park wins Alaska Community Service Award for Health for Park Prescriptions program

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card in early 2013.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card in early 2013.

Sitka National Historical Park is pleased to announce that its Park Prescriptions program has received the Alaska Community Service Award for Health from the Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA).

According to ALPHA, Sitka National Historical Park was chosen for its “significant contribution to the health of Alaskans” by fostering “improved personal health through outdoor physical activity” in the park. John Quinley, the assistant regional director from the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office, will accept the award on behalf of Sitka National Historical Park at the Alaska Health Summit on Wednesday, Jan. 29, in Anchorage.

SitkaNationalHistoricalParkSignAccording to a press release from Sitka National Historical Park Chief of Interpretation and Education Becky Latanich, the park “extends its thanks to the Sitka Heath Summit for its support of the program and to all of the local healthcare providers that have participated in the initiative.  The park also thanks its partners at the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation for sponsoring the program’s participation incentives.”

The Park Prescriptions program strengthens the connection between the health care system and public lands by promoting walking the trails at Sitka National Historical Park to improve physical health, as well as emotional and mental well-being.

Local health providers write park prescriptions to their patients, who fill the park prescriptions by taking walks through the totem trails at Sitka National Historical Park. Every time people take a walk, they get a punchcard stamped at the park’s visitor center, and when the punchcard is full it is entered for quarterly prize drawings.

For more information about the program, contact Ranger Carin Farley at 907-747-0127.

Park Prescription Program: The Path to Wealth and Fitness

Betty Jo Whitcomb takes her daily walk among the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park. She is the first recipient of a quarterly $100 cash prize for participants of the park's Park Prescription Program. (NPS Photo by Michael Hess)

Betty Jo Whitcomb takes her daily walk among the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park. She is the first recipient of a quarterly $100 cash prize for participants of the park’s Park Prescription Program. (NPS Photo by Michael Hess)

Longtime Sitka walker wins $100 at the first quarterly drawing of completed Park Prescription cards.

Story and Photo By MICHAEL HESS, Park Ranger, Sitka National Historical Park

SiITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK  (June 24, 2013) – While many visitors are enriched physically and mentally walking the trails at Sitka National Historical Park, one walker also became a little wealthier this month as a participant of the Park Prescription Program.

Betty Jo Whitcomb was the first recipient of the quarterly drawing of completed Park Prescription cards, earning her the $100 cash prize, and recognition at a brief ceremony at the park’s second annual National Trails Day earlier this month.

As a longtime Sitka resident, Betty Jo has walked the popular Totem Trail at the national park every day for several years, interacting with out-of-town visitors, meeting old friends, and enjoying the rich cultural history and natural beauty of the park. Even with the other 20 program participants, her odds of winning were good this quarter.

Park Prescriptions FinalShe stops by the park visitor center each day after her walk, presenting her Park Prescription punch card to one of the rangers for verification of her activity. As much as she walks, Betty Jo expects to have at least two cards completed before the next drawing in October.

“[The prize] adds a little extra incentive,” said Ann Wilkinson, president of the Sitka Community Hospital Foundation, the local organization that funded the prize and also purchased waterproof cellphone cases for Park Prescription participants, which conveniently also fits a folded prescription card.

“The more cards you fill up, the better your chances to win the money and, most importantly, the better you’ll feel,” she said.

Betty Jo found out about the program in the local newspaper, but many other walkers learn about the program from their doctors – as a real prescription for real ailments. Sharing thoughts about the Park Prescription’s fountainhead initiative, Call to Action No. 6: “Go Take a Hike, and Call Me in the Morning,” National Parks Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “Being outdoors has positive effects on health that don’t cost a dime” – a feeling shared by the participating local doctors.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card.

Sitka National Historical Park Senior Ranger Carin Farley, right, celebrates with Eric and Sarah Jordan after they became the first people to complete a Park Prescriptions punch card.

As a preventive measure, walking reduces the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, improves mental health and provides many other health benefits. Eric Jordan, another regular Sitka walker and the first person to fill his Park Prescription logged 180 miles in his first five weeks, and later received a clean bill of health from his doctor. In other cases, cardiac patients recover with regular walks on the park’s improved trails, and mental health providers write scripts for exercise and sunshine.

The freedom for participants to achieve their health goals at their own pace, creating their own personal exercise regime is among the stated strengths of the program, along with low start-up costs.

This focus on personal responsibility was also what attracted the attention of Sitka Health Summit board members when they granted support for the program last year, said Patrick Williams, health educator at the Sitka Community Hospital and a member of the Summit.  The Summit meets every year to grant seed money to low-cost, high-gain community wellness opportunities.

This year the Summit invested another $250 that will go towards printing another batch of Park Prescription cards that will be available to local health care providers.

Though a fledgling program with ambitious goals, already people like Betty Jo Whitcomb, Eric Jordan, and the other diligent walkers, strollers, and runners are punching their Park Prescription cards for health, and maybe even a little wealth, on the trails of Sitka National Historical Park.

For more information about the Park Prescription program as a healthcare provider, participant, or volunteer, contact Carin Farley, Sitka National Historical Park chief ranger and program coordinator, at (907) 747-0110 or carin_farley@nps.gov.

• Information sheet about the Park Prescriptions program at Sitka National Historical Park