When Lowcountry healthcare provider Tidelands Health launched its prescription walk-in program with Brookgreen Gardens in 2020, the program was quickly overshadowed by the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
A Walk in the Garden offers qualifying patients a prescription for a free 30-day pass to Brookgreen Gardens, a former rice plantation-turned-sculpture garden and wildlife sanctuary near Murrells Entrance.
Eligible patients included anyone 40 years of age or older who was physically inactive and had at least one cardiac risk factor, such as hypertension or diabetes.
“With everything going on with COVID, there hasn’t been as much focus on (the program),” said Dawn Bryant, a spokesperson for Tidelands Health. “That’s why we’re revamping it now.”
Initially, the program was only offered to patients at Tidelands Family Medicine Practices. The organization is now opening the program to patients from all of its specialty practices, including women’s care, orthopedics and digestive health.
So far, the program has given out 12 prescriptions for Brookgreen Gardens walks. And with more than 60 participating Lowcountry locations, including Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and Andrews, Tidelands officials said there’s no limit to the number of prescriptions they can write.
Program patients can choose from four different walking trails, ranging from less than a mile to 2.2 miles.
And after the 30-day pass expires, patients have the option of receiving a discount for a year-long membership.
Dr. James Turek is a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health. He said the normal recommendation is 30 minutes a day of walking or physical activity.
“You can prevent a lot of health problems just by moving,” Turek said. “And walking is a low barrier (activity). You don’t need a gym and if you can go for a walk in a beautiful area like Brookgreen Gardens, that will also give you mental health benefits.’
Terri Belanger, a 30-year member of Brookgreen Gardens, said walking the gardens is therapeutic for her.
“I’m going alone,” Belanger said. “This is the solitude I seek.”
Belanger recently retired from his job at Brookgreen as a sculpture associate in January 2021.
“I never got up from my desk and I was probably in the worst shape of my life,” she said.
Now, a year and a half later, she walks at least 2 miles a day and has lost 20 pounds. She also said she saw a noticeable change in her energy levels.
Brookgreen has over 9,000 acres of land dedicated to the sculptures of founder Anna Hyatt Huntington and 430 other artists, while also being home to the Lowcountry Zoo and Botanical Garden.
“We have the largest collection of American figurative sculpture,” said Jay Rowe, Brookgreen’s vice president of operations.
The garden also hosts huge live oak trees planted in the early 1700s. The trees are located along a shady valley called The Live Oak Allee.
Spanish moss hangs low enough to touch the top of your head as you walk by, and walkers can view animal sculptures and picturesque lakes as they tread the paths.
For more information about Walk in the Garden, visit your local Tidelands Health Office.
Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @Zharia_Jeffries.