University outdoor program offers students, community with recreation and volunteering

Since it was founded in 1999, the Outdoor Program, managed by the University’s Department of Recreation and Wellness, has been hosting outdoors trips for University students, faculty and community members.

The program is open to anyone over 18 years old, and trips include places around BG as well as other locations in Ohio and Michigan.

In addition to giving students the opportunity to visit a natural setting and to connect with one another, these trips give students an opportunity to learn a variety of outdoor skills such as rock climbing, kayaking and snowshoeing.

The program is also dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and developing leadership and team-building skills for students.

The Outdoor Program also promotes preservation of the environment and sponsors clean-ups of parks and wildlife areas in conjunction with the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability and the Leave No Trace program.

The program’s next clean-up trip will be to a local river on April 8.

The program won the David J. Webb Excellence Award, a national award for outstanding non-profit outdoor programs from the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, in December 2016.

Both students and University staff are involved in managing the Outdoor Program. Thad Long, the associate director of the Department of Recreation and Wellness, assists in the planning and direction of Outdoor Program events.

“What I like best about the Outdoor Program is being able to connect to the students and see them connect with each other. It’s also great to get people interested in the outdoors,” he said.

Mikayla Mueller, a second-year University student, has been a supervisor of program outings since 2015.

She first became involved with the program after the Freshman Wilderness Experience, a week-long summer backpacking or canoeing trip that gives academic credit to incoming freshmen.

She helped administer last summer’s Wilderness Experience.

After graduation, she plans to continue her interest in nature fostered by the program by studying psychology with an interest in incorporating the outdoors into psychiatric therapy.

Participating in these trips requires registration and payment through the program’s website.

Several upcoming events hosted by the program are a hiking trip at Hocking Hills State Park on January 28, ice climbing in Fenton, Michigan on February 11 and a trip to the Ohio Caverns park on March 25.

All equipment will be provided by the program, and no experience is required for most of the activities. More information on the activities and sign-up deadlines is available on their website.