The means to the great outdoors

Walter Gould leans in as he methodically scrapes a long, thin, strip of wax off of a cross country ski. The small room he works in could be called cluttered if it wasn’t so organized. Snowboard boots and ski poles line the walls.

A small backpacking tent is set up in a corner. A bright yellow raft sits on the edge of the room, as if waiting for the spring runoff from the Logan river to arrive. Back and forth, back and forth, Walter’s push-pull motion seems to fit the feel of the room perfectly.

“What we’re all about is getting students into the outdoors,” said Gould, an employee of the Outdoor Recreation Program. “We provide them with gear and instruction that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. We provide them with opportunities that the average person doesn’t get to do.”

Those opportunities range from kayak rentals to a library of books that can be checked out and everything in between. Because student fees are used to run the ORP, all rentals are offered at discounted rates to students.

Whether students have never set foot in a tent or they spend every weekend in Logan canyon, Gould said that the program provides resources for every skill level. Rather than learning the boy scout method, which he said is “learning not to be miserable,” he wants to set students off on fun, safe, adventures.

“I grew up with the boy scout method. That’s when I learned I hated being cold and wet,” Gould said. “We can help in every stage of planning a trip. We can help them with the guidebooks, with planning what food to cook, how much to carry, what size pack they need to have. Basically we can help people make good solid informed decisions and have a good time out there.”

Brian Shirley, the ORP program coordinator, said whether students want to leave for a day or for a week, they can put their student fees to good use.

“We just need them to get out there,” he said.

Resting in the basement of the Distribution Building, the ORP, formerly the ORC, or Outdoor Recreation Center, has undergone numerous internal changes in the past year. Public relations intern Jesse Dredge said, as a staff, they want the program to be more than just a place to rent skis once a year. He wants students to see it as a place they can come hang out.

“What we really want to do is put out the image that we’re open,” Dredge said. “We’re not closed to people just coming in here. We want people to be comfortable enough with us to come in here and see what’s going on. We’re not a standoffish type of organization.”

Gould said the name change was a huge step in reflecting the ORP’s vision, which is to not just give students equipment, but to teach them how to use it. He said rather than just providing rentals, they want to provide experiences.

“We’re trying to is give people all the resources they could possible need to head out into the back country and front country,” he said. “The guys who actually run the shop are extremely experienced and really amazing. They’ve passed that knowledge down to the staff.”

One of the largest changes in the ORP’s new line of programming is a variety of recreation education classes. One of the first to be offered this spring is a swift water technician course, a class Gould said is good for anybody from budding raft guides to those who just want to rent a kayak for a day. The three-day class, which starts May 9, is $175 for students and $260 for the community.

Shirley said classes like these not only teach people about the outdoors, but give them opportunities to be leaders.

“Come take classes, learn about leadership,” he said. “They help you to identify yourself, to learn about yourself.”

In coming years, Gould said students could see more programming changes to the ORP, including an expanded climbing program, a whitewater kayak fleet and courses in mountaineering.

“Brian has a great vision,” Gould said. “It going to take time, but this a step in a good direction. The future is bright.”

–  allee.evensen@aggiemail.usu.edu

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