Last Tuesday, outdoor enthusiasts and curious beginners alike convened in Pettengill Hall to discuss ways to make students more comfortable participating in outdoor recreation at Bates. The audience was a mix of all class years and leadership levels, working to make outdoor access more inclusive.
“[The program] is supposed to engage people beyond the Outing Club members” co-ambassador Adam Auerbach ‘16 said. Adam Auerbach and Chrissy McCabe are the two seniors spearheading Bates’ partnership with the non-profit Outdoor Nation, a program committed to breaking down barriers to the outdoors, as well as the National Park Service Campus Ambassador Program. Fellow senior Jordan Cargill first introduced the non-profit to the pair by enrolling Bates in Outdoor Nation’s Campus Challenge, aimed at getting as many students on college campuses participating in all things outdoors. The winning school will receive $2,500 at the end of the six week event.
This opened the door to Adam and Chrissy, who jumped on the opportunity for $3,500 in grant money to supply beginners with new gear and skills to explore Maine and beyond.
“People who voluntarily go and sign up for Outing Club trips, you are already engaged in outdoor activities,” McCabe said to the crowd, stating that while this program is separate from the Outing Club, she plans on working with students like herself, who are members of both. “I think there is a lot of interest in Outing Club and people are not really sure how to apply that interest to actual trips,” Caitlin Keady ‘18 added.
McCabe and Auerbach asked the audience about how they try to involve themselves in nature, or what prevents them from doing so. Discussion questions were scrawled on the chalkboards: What do you do outdoors? What kinds of skills or gear do you need to be more comfortable with outdoor recreation (in the future)? What types of trips would you like to see that haven’t been lead in the past? How can we engage?
Students brought up issues including the usual money, time, location and lack of expertise, but also some of the social obstacles preventing some students of different race and backgrounds from participating. One student discussed disparities in gender, race, and the acknowledgement of different cultural narratives in outdoor groups at Bates — she mentioned that many students of color are from inner city areas and have never had the exposure to the outdoors like some of their peers at school. She suggested that trip leaders be aware of varying degrees of comfort and that a representative from the Outing Club work with campus Mosaic groups to promote leader diversity.
Grace Huang ‘17 came up with the idea of group slots for trips, allowing a group of friends to go on a trip as a package and thus creating a more comfortable environment. “People are going to feel judged in a group of people that they don’t know,” Huang said. She sought to help encourage those who find inspiration in nature (like yoga and meditation) to feel welcome with what people consider a “traditional” outdoor enthusiast.
At the end of the discussion McCabe and Auerbach proposed their plans for this year. The leaders hope to coordinate three trips per semester designated for beginners. Semester trips will be divided between the Appalachian Trail and Acadia, both national parks to help increase national park awareness. The first semester will focus on trips in the Appalachian Trail, including the approximately three miles that Bates maintains. The second semester will travel the two and a half hours away to Acadia on Mount Desert Island to lead a possible beginner winter camping trip, as well as a trip during Short Term. McCabe also plans on starting an outdoor 101 series called “Bates Camp-Us” that will remain in Lewiston, teaching students basic skills like how to set up a tent on the quad, or how to boil water using WhisperLite stoves.
The two seniors encourage students to lead beginner trips themselves, where they will be eligible to tap the $3,500 in funds for park permits, food, and transportation.