Despite information-age worries about the influence of technology causing fewer people to spend an adequate amout of time outdoors, the College of William and Mary’s Outdoor Recreation program is doing just fine.
From backpacking, to spelunking, to kayaking, Outdoor Rec provides a wide variety of opportunities for members of the College community to get out and experience nature in active ways. The program has already completed one trip this semester and has planned seven more to take place before December.
“We provide equipment, transportation there and back, and pay entrance fees,” Walesca Darce, a graduate assistant at the Student Recreation Center, said. “It’s nice to be able to offer that service to students.”
Michael Axline ’13 first went on an Outdoor Rec trip as a part of the Pathways pre-orientation program immediately before the beginning of his freshman year.
“We met at the Rec center, drove out to Shenandoah National Park, and then … set up camp on a campsite and went hiking,” Axline said. “Later, we went partly on the Appalachian Trial, partly on some other trail; we went in a big circle but ended up in the same place.”
No previous experience is required to go on any of the Outdoor Rec trips. They are open to everyone in the area, including students, faculty, staff and others in the community who are interested. Additionally, they do not cost much money, which is unusual for sports such as kayaking and spelunking.
“A lot of trips like these — rock climbing, for example — [require] money to do on your own,” Darce said. “The price is minimal for Outdoor Rec trips.”
According to Theran Fisher, assistant director of Outdoor Rec, the benefits extend beyond getting outside and learning new sports.
“Outdoor Rec is passionate about [getting people outdoors],” Fisher said. “That’s where I found my niche as a college student. It’s an opportunity to get off campus when you usually don’t. You get to meet others you wouldn’t usually meet.”
By going on the trip, Fisher said students are able to become friends with people they’ve never met prior to the trip.
“I loved it,” Axline said. “I am still friends with most of the people that I went on the trip with. I still talk to the camp leader.”
In recent years, studies conducted by various organizations have broadcast concerns to the public that the influx of new technologies is causing, people to spend less time with one another and less time outdoors. The Outdoor Rec program has not had problems attracting people to attend trips. In fact, Darce said, there is more participation on the trips than ever.
“Some of the upcoming trips are actually full with a waiting list,” Darce said. “There’s been a good response. We have the most trip leaders we’ve ever had. They’re very eager. Sometimes they want to lead more trips or make new trips themselves. The interest [for our trips] is there, and we have the people to back it up.”
Fisher and Darce agree that interest areas for young people and outdoor sports have shifted.
“I wouldn’t say this generation is less active,” Fisher said. “I would say it’s active in a different way. Lots of people haven’t had the chance [to do trips like these]. We want to open their eyes.”
Darce pointed out that some aspects of the 21st century, such as the green movement, are actually conducive to interest levels in outdoor recreation.
“There’s a growing interest [in] the environment,” Darce said. “There’s more light shed [on these kinds of trips]. They’re becoming more mainstream.”
Going hiking or canoeing with a fun group of people is a great way to spend a weekend. According to Darce, these trips extend beyond just a few days in the wilderness. He said they form permanent, healthy habits with which participants can continue long after they’ve stopped playing intramural college sports.
“They are lifelong sports, as opposed to some college sports,” Darce said. “I played soccer in college, but that’s not something I’ll be able to do always and I can’t do it on my own. You can hike on your own, and you can do it all your life. [Outdoor Rec] trips create a lifelong entrance to these activities.”