Arwen Turner said just testing out the activities for the Come Alive Outside winter passport made a noticeable difference in her stress levels.

“Amid the pandemic, children and adults are showing higher levels of anxiety and depression,” she said. “We know going into this winter, this winter is going to be very difficult.”

Turner is the executive director of Come Alive Outside, which promotes outdoor recreation in the area. The winter passport is part of a partnership with large employers and the Rutland Wellness Cooperative.

Jacki Becker, a member of the cooperative, said the group’s mission is to take a leadership role in health and wellness in the “greater Rutland” area.

“Greater Rutland — we don’t have borders,” she said. “We just want people involved who want to be involved.”

The group worked with Come Alive Outside on the summer passport program, which listed various outdoor activities people could participate in and stamp pages in a “passport” as they were completed. The group has sponsored a youth passport program for several years. Turner said the adult passport grew out of an effort to create a version of the program for the recovery community based on findings that exposure to natural spaces reduces stress and anxiety as well as, to a limited extent, cravings.

Becker said they had planned to promote that at Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce meetings over the summer, but that did not happen.

“We did the best we could do with the passport in the midst of the pandemic,” she said.

In a survey conducted after the summer program, Becker said, almost all of the participants who responded said it benefited their mental and physical health. Organizers said the goal for the winter program was to increase the number of employers partnering with them as well as individual participation. Thus far, she said, 1,200 people have signed up.

Rutland Regional Medical Center, Woodstock Inn and Resort, Heritage Family Credit Union, the City of Rutland, Vermont Country Store, the Greater Rutland Supervisory Union and A.N. Deringer have all signed up on behalf of their employees, Turner said, and individuals will be able to sign at the Come Alive Outside website starting Jan. 11.

The program will run Jan. 15 to March 31. The passport lists 40 activities, such as visiting particular parks or using particular trails. Completion of five enters participants in a raffle for a number of prizes.

“We want to make sure this is an accessible activity, and we’re meeting you where you are,” Becker said. “If five activities are all you feel like you can physically or emotionally complete, we understand.”

The program will make use to two “virtual communities,” one being a private Facebook feed to help participants stay engaged and the other a series of Zoom meetings with talks on subjects including snowshoeing, mushroom foraging, making sugar on snow and doing yoga with pets.

Prizes include gift cards from Amazon, L.L. Bean and Vermont Country Store.

“The majority of the prizes are intended to keep that outdoor journey going,” Turner said.


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City Reporter

Gordon has been a reporter for the Rutland Herald for nearly 20 years. A Castleton State College graduate, he's covered beats from the West county to the city, cops and courts and everything in between.

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