Guest Column - May/June 2005
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Without Walls

Expanding your programming opportunities in recreation and education

By Russ Crispell

Are you finding your programming stale, static, dull and unable to meet needs of your participants? Have you considered broadening your recreational programs except that your business lacks the necessary facilities? These questions can be answered by expanding your programming outdoors.

Expansion of programs can be obtained initially by walking the grounds and green space at your facility or surveying what is available at local colleges, universities and community parks. Within a short distance, you may have access to "natural fitness centers"—parks, rivers and streams, hills and valleys—that can be used in outdoor programming.

Literally, the natural world is at your fingertips. Recent studies from the Outdoor Industry Association show an overall growth in outdoor recreation. According to this study, close to two-thirds of Americans 16 years and older participate in at least one of the core activities, that is, hiking, biking, camping and paddling. With nearly 142 million people ages 16 and over using the outdoors, the opportunity for expansion of quality programming is present.

Outdoor recreation is a growth market. It will require businesses to begin focusing on outdoor programming to meet consumer demand, and additional programming can mean additional revenue for those offering outdoor activities.

"Outdoor recreation has clearly established itself as one of the strongest, most stable activity populations over the last six years," says Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Outdoor Industry Association, "And with a marked boom in enthusiasts, it's evident that Americans are becoming more passionate about their outdoor time."

The Outdoor Industry Association and its members have teamed up with the Bureau of Land Management and the USDA Forest Service to begin development of a comprehensive outdoor initiative designed to improve the overall fitness and health of Americans. As the industry moves forward to increase outdoor opportunities, both public and private businesses willing to assist will reap the benefits.

Consider beginning your program by enlisting the assistance of the local college recreation or student services department. Students, faculty, staff and community members have diverse recreational opportunities as well as the option to pursue academic programs that offer credit-bearing courses such as backpacking, canoeing, hiking, outdoor recreation and education studies. Networking with local guides, livery companies, neighboring colleges and universities can enable you to implement outdoor programs without the upstart cost of equipment and facilities. Revenue-generation from these activities will drive the development and expansion of your own outdoor program offerings.

Tread gently

Whatever programs you choose to offer, make sure they are done in an environmentally sound manner by practicing the Leave No Trace ethic.

Leave No Trace has seven guiding principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

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