If you visited your doctor recently, you may have been given an unusual prescription – for going outside.

That is because spending time outside is just plain good for you, from helping you shed a few extra pounds, to strengthening your heart, or warding off depression, says Deb Nardone, Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy.

That fact led to the creation of Centred Outdoors, a program that encourages people to enjoy our community’s natural resources and to learn more about them. The 2017 summer program featured nine locations in Centre County: Black Moshannon State Park, the Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor, Bald Eagle State Park, Talleyrand Park, Spring Creek Canyon, Poe Paddy Tunnel, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, the Arboretum at Penn State, and Mount Nittany.

Each location began with a sign that provided health and wellness information. This included how the air quality can affect your health, the terrain difficulty level, how many steps you can expect to walk, and how many calories you could burn. There was also information about the flora and fauna found in the area.

Each Sunday and Wednesday, guided excursions were led by local environmental educators, historians, and healthcare providers. The website, CentredOutdoors.org, provided a virtual hub for people to learn and connect, both before and after the hikes.

It was an opportunity to do an important project at the right time…

While these guided excursions were free and open to participants of all ages and fitness levels, Nardone also encouraged people to explore Centre County’s natural beauty on their own. It is not only good for people, she says, it is also good for those outdoor places.

“Spending time in the outdoors, particularly in your backyard, motivates people to understand why it’s worth protecting those places,” she says.

It is hard for Nardone to pick just one favorite among the Centred Outdoors’ sites.

“They all provide something very special and different,” she says.

Mount Nittany was her son’s first big hike, so that has a special place in her heart and it remains a regular family outing. She also loves to walk, hike, bike, and fish at Spring Creek Canyon.

Nardone and her family challenged themselves to explore all nine locations during Centred Outdoors.
She hopes other families follow suit.

Centred Outdoors was led by ClearWater, in collaboration with the Penns Valley Conservation Association, Mount Nittany Conservancy, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, and the Sustainability Institute at Pennsylvania State University The Mount Nittany Health System was also a partner and prescriber of “PaRx” prescriptions to get outside.

The program received a $100,000 grant through Centre Foundation’s Centre Inspires granting program. Centre Inspires was established in 2014 and is designed to be transformative on a county-wide scale by creating positive change through community engagement.

In 2016, Centre Inspires’ focus was creating community engagement through the environment, so Centred Outdoors was a natural choice to receive the grant at the Foundation’s Annual Dinner in November.

“It was incredibly exciting,” says Nardone. “It was an opportunity to do an important project at the right time that we wouldn’t have had the leverage to do without this grant.”

Centre Foundation also supports ClearWater through two endowment funds: the ClearWater Conservancy Fund and the ClearWater Conservancy Conservation Easement Stewardship Fund. The organization also participates in Centre Gives, raising $50,370 through it in 2016 and $101,783 in 2017. Grant money that went to ClearWater through Centre Gives, Centre Inspires, and endowment funds totaled $107,348 in 2016.