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Feature Article - March 2009

The Nature Connection

Outdoor Programming Takes Off

By Stacy St. Clair


N

ature programming long has been dismissed as a passive pursuit, an activity for blue-haired ladies who liked to identify wildflowers or armchair entomologists with creepy, crawly bug collections.

But recreation managers still clinging to that old-school belief could soon find themselves on the endangered species list. Today's nature programs draw diverse crowds, teach ecosystem-saving lessons and serve as a valuable partner in the fight against childhood obesity. In an environmentally conscious world that aims to grow greener each day, communities must include such programs in order to both meet their patrons' needs and societal obligations.

No Older Adult Left Inside

In order to bolster nature programming, managers first must drop any previously held notions about who participates in such activities. Today's participants are limited only to the organizer's imagination. The Nebraska 4-H, for example, traditionally has dedicated itself to young people interested in the agrarian pursuits. But in 1991, it expanded its programming to include seniors, a group that will desire more and more recreational services as the baby boomers reach retirement age.

Camp YEPIE (Youthful Energetic People Interested in Everything) was a three-day senior citizens resident camp held at the 4-H camp facility near Halsey, Neb. Under the initiative, interested seniors from both rural and urban communities could register for the early autumn camp in the Nebraska National Forest.

A scenic combination of the Sandhills and the world's largest hand-planted forest, the camp is both an educational and an enchanting getaway. Just as their school-age counterparts did during the summer, the senior campers could spend their days hiking, canoeing and kayaking in a gorgeous natural setting.