Small spaces, great outdoors

The Outdoor Program displays headgear at its booth at Westminster’s Clubs and Organizations Fair, showcasing the safety equipment and importance of head protection. Events listed in the outdoor program’s Fall 2016 schedule include backpacking King’s Peak in Utah, climbing City of Rocks in Idaho and evening hikes on local trails. Photo credit Andy Figorski.

The Outdoor Program displays headgear at its booth at Westminster’s Clubs and Organizations Fair, showcasing the safety equipment and importance of head protection. Events listed in the outdoor program’s Fall 2016 schedule include backpacking King’s Peak in Utah, climbing City of Rocks in Idaho and evening hikes on local trails. Photo credit Andy Figorski.

One of the most popular programs on campus operates in a space no larger than a family food storage area.

Located in the basement of the Health, Wellness, and Athletics Center (HWAC), Westminster College’s Outdoor Recreation Program helps students explore the vast Utah landscape—all from the confines of a 35 foot long, 8 foot high and 15 foot wide storage space.

“We’re packed to the gills,” said Tiana White, director of the Outdoor Recreation Program.  “There’s something in every little nook and cranny; it becomes challenging when we can’t spread out to the gym.”

Camping cookware fills the east wall of the room, while the caged off west wall contains camping backpacks, tents and survival equipment. A cramped desk is where the director and assistants manage the program.

With limited space and resources to operate in, the Outdoor Recreation Program still manages to allure student adventurers semester after semester.

Mariah Hartle, a senior environmental studies major who works with the Outdoor Recreation Program, said, “We always have something on the agenda and great leaders that design trips to make sure everyone’s comfortable.”

Outdoor Recreation places students in various roles that encourage leadership and responsibility. All of the events are student led and driven—a leadership practice White said she believes keeps students coming back to the program.

“When you’re leading seven or eight people, you take responsibility and there are consequences,” Hartle said.

Josh Schmidt, a senior biology major and student trip leader, said that a Wilderness First Responder (WFR)—someone who receives basic emergency training in the event of injury—goes out with each group.

Events listed in the outdoor program’s Fall 2016 schedule include backpacking King’s Peak in Utah, climbing City of Rocks in Idaho and evening hikes on local trails.

“We’re always excited for the big trips of the year, like King’s Peak backpacking and City of Rocks climbing,” Schmid said. He said he encourages first-year students to take an orientation class to get familiar with the outdoors.

Kayla Kovago, a junior transfer student from Massachusetts, said one of the main reasons she came to Westminster was the college’s emphasis on getting outdoors with friends.

The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation indicates that Utahns have access to more than 54 million acres of public land, 14 ski resorts, five national parks and more than 40 state parks.

Cost shouldn’t be a factor in outdoor recreation participation, according to Schmidt.

“We’re all kind of broke, so it’s an affordable way to get outside with your friends,” he said.

For more information on eligibility, climbing aboard and joining the Outdoor Recreation program, contact outdoorprogram@westminstercollege.edu.