Move over Bear Grylls. Make way Ron Swanson. Take a back seat Naked and Afraid.
Change is coming to the world of outdoor recreation, says Martin Crawford, director of Pomona’s Outdoor Education Center (OEC). There will still be plenty of room for the extreme outdoorsmen like Grylls and the mustachioed hunters like (the fictional Parks and Recreation character) Swanson, but there’s also a growing space being made for women, people of color, queer and trans folk and other groups who in the past, have not felt comfortable or welcomed in the outdoors.
Making the outdoors experience inviting for all Pomona students has been a central part of the OEC’s mission for years now—and Chris Weyant, coordinator at the OEC, says the world of outdoors recreation is finally catching on, at least in higher education. The OEC, which coordinates the Orientation Adventure (OA) experience for all incoming new students and other outdoor education opportunities throughout the year, recruits OA leaders that represent the diversity of the new class, offers a variety of adventures at different levels, and brings in guest speakers from organizations like Latino Outdoors and Outdoor Afro. Last fall, they even added tree climbing (that’s right, tree climbing—not rock climbing) to their Outdoor Leadership class in an effort to draw a wider net of students.
Crawford says it’s important to rethink what the outdoors offers in terms of recreation and that means changing our own perception of how recreational outdoor spaces are used: “If you don’t already feel comfortable in the outdoors, you’re going to think ‘Oh, this is not for me’ and you just keep on driving [away from a state park]. But as we start changing what you do there and how we recreate, it’ll slowly start to change.”