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Starting a College Outdoors Club
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James Patsalides
(james@patsalides.com) - MLife

Locale: New England
Starting a College Outdoors Club on 05/26/2011 06:48:18 MDT Print View

So, I finally got approval to start an outdoors club at the suburban Connecticut college where I teach, and I'm looking for ideas and suggestions on how to bring student club members into the outdoors. We've set ourselves the mission of getting our diverse student urban/suburban population into the outdoors, teaching them Leave No Trace and outdoors skills, and doing community service work (trail maintenance) locally. Does anyone have any specific ideas or comments on how to get my kids started in the CT/MA/RI/NY area?

Also, any offers of assistance from skilled volunteers in the area who might like to lead small groups into the outdoors for us would be much appreciated (appropriate screening will be applied, of course) - I'm operating alone at this point and I've already had almost 20 students sign up, so cannot really do anything except day hiking with a group of that size... We're in East Hartford, CT.

Edited by james@patsalides.com on 05/26/2011 06:50:26 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Starting a College Outdoors Club on 05/26/2011 08:52:21 MDT Print View

I would contact other university outdoor programs and ask for advice. Ask to see copies of their leader manuals, policies, waivers and the like. Perhaps you can even attend their guide trainings. There is a lot of liability involved in leading people outdoors. Best not to go into this blind and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. You won't be competing with other colleges, so they will likely be open to sharing their manuals.

Daniel Smith
(scissor) - F
re hiking club on 05/26/2011 09:00:25 MDT Print View

My buddy organized a hiking club and got members so quickly he had to start a waiting list almost immediately. His trick was he raised money, organized a shuttle for hikes, put flyers up and people flocked. Gas is expensive and college kids are poor, they will take notice.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: Starting a College Outdoors Club on 05/26/2011 12:21:50 MDT Print View

Congrats! That's a great thing to offer students. You should check out some of the other Outing Clubs in New England. The UVM Outing Club's faculty adviser might have some ideas or insights for you.

http://www.uvm.edu/~outside/

At UVM, they have a program that trains students to be trip leaders. I believe it's called WILD. I believe the students are trained in driving university vans and wilderness first aid. A bunch of my friends went through that program. I believe they might limit the size of groups to something like 2 student leaders and 8 participants, but they could fill you in better.

If I remember correctly, my GF said that the club tried to encourage students with diverse backgrounds to participate in outdoor sports like backpacking and canoeing. I'll have to ask here about it tonight.

James Patsalides
(james@patsalides.com) - MLife

Locale: New England
Re: Starting a College Outdoors Club on 05/28/2011 12:55:22 MDT Print View

Guys,
Great advice, thanks... I'll jump on the phone next week and try UVM, I also have contacts at both UNH, SUNY Courtlandt and Plymouth State... so I can definitely cast a wide net. I've already got over 40 people signed up in just a week, so I might have the same issues of too many people to handle too soon. I guess it is a good problem to have! The college just bought a bunch (~300 acres) of wild lands on the CT river, and they're planning to put in trails etc, but leave it basically as a pristine area on the river. With appropriate supervision, we might be able to use that space to get started.

On the liability thing, no doubt we'll have to deal with the college's insurance agent. The initial reaction was "waivers of liability", I'm going to make sure I have that nailed before our first trip!

Anyway, thanks again for the advice... I just set up our facebook page, so if you're interested in following our progress as we form up and begin taking tiny measured steps towards the wilderness, search for "Goodwin College Outdoors Club" on facebook and "like" us!

Cheers, James.