Gear ‘library’ builds new technology of outside adventurers

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LEADVILLE, Colorado (AP) – Vanessa Saldivar was 5 years old when her father ran the rabbit slope at Mt. Hood Skibowl in Oregon. She didn’t have a fancy jacket. She used socks as mittens. Her father nudged her. And she was addicted.

“All of those barriers collapsed right now,” said the new executive director of Get Outdoors Leadville !, who recently opened a new equipment library that lends outdoor equipment to Lake County residents.

“The equipment library addresses these obstacles. How big would the difference have been if I had grown up in my church? I could have had gloves! “

Five Years After Get Outdoors Leadville! – or GOL – Coalition raised $ 3 million from Great Outdoors Colorado’s Generation Wild initiative. The long-planned equipment cache opens its own facility on the Colorado Mountain College campus.

Saldivar grew up in a tourism-dependent town in Oregon near the Mount Hood ski area. Both of her parents worked as chefs in restaurants. “Financial and cultural” obstacles limited their ability to get outside and relax, Saldivar said.

“But my father wanted us to know that nature is for us too,” said Saldivar, an avid skier, snowboarder, climber and mountain biker. “When I look at the equipment library, I think of my early outdoor experiences and I know the impact those experiences can have. These barriers persist for low-income families, as well as immigrant and skin-colored families. The Equipment Library … completely removes some of these obstacles. “

The brand new two story facility on the Colorado Mountain College campus above downtown Leadville will help break down barriers in Lake County. More than a hundred mountain bikes – around half with fat tires for stepping on snow – are available for day trips or overnight trips. The shelves are stocked with helmets, snowshoes, snowshoes, sharp hiking boots, cross-country skis, Osprey backpacks, camping stoves, Black Diamond snow jackets, sleeping bags, and almost anything campers and hikers could need.

Equipment library membership costs $ 5 a month, $ 30 a year, or $ 50 for a family, but a new plan is asking residents who can afford it to pay more. The equipment library is open to everyone in the county and residents who cannot afford membership will still have access, said Becca Katz, interim director of Get Outdoors Leadville!

Geonna Bowers and Maya Mendoza work in the equipment library. You recently worked on bicycles. Mendoza, 17, is keen to rent equipment and go camping this summer.

“Look how easy it is,” Mendoza said, indicating the racks.

Bowers, also 17, loves to watch younger children come in and try out the library’s collection of smaller bikes and skis.

“This gives us a good opportunity to go outside. We can at least try, ”said Bowers. “Especially with all the sports that were canceled at school last year, it is even more important for us to do something outside.”

GOL is part of the national Outdoors Empowered Network, which promotes better access and diversity in the outdoors by supporting outdoor equipment libraries and leadership training programs. The network, which works with major outdoor gear manufacturers, distributes donated equipment to 20 libraries, most of which are located near urban centers such as Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and the Bay Area.

“We definitely fit in well with the entire network, but we have big ideas so that we can fit together well,” said Katz.

When Rachel Pokrandt offered GOL a plot of land for its headquarters, it wasn’t just about helping a community facility. The vice president and campus dean of Colorado Mountain College viewed the facility as a real-life laboratory for students in the school’s outdoor leadership training program.

“The idea of ​​having it on campus was really twofold,” she said. “It was an opportunity for our students to manage equipment, work with the public, and conduct outdoor programs. This is exactly what we train them for. We take our responsibility to our communities very seriously at CMC, and this was one of the ways we can help a community partner and get more people on our campus and on our paths to feel that their college is theirs. “

Colorado Mountain College’s two-year outdoor leadership program consists of approximately 50 students. These students support possibly one of the most dynamic industries in the country. Your challenge in entering the $ 788 billion outdoor recreation economy is to increase diversity within the industry and build a broader base of public land supporters.

“We have a great responsibility as Colorado residents and people who enjoy the outdoors to make sure everyone in our communities has access to these amenities, and we want to make sure this is built into our student program to ensure that they are actively involved in diversifying the outdoor industry, ”said Pokrandt.

GOL’s Rockies Rock Adventure Camp always fills up with 100 local children with every two-week summer session. It is the only summer childcare program in the area, so the numbers reflect classroom attendance during the school year. This summer the camp will include tutors to help students catch up after the pandemic year. Programs for senior campers explore photography, mountain biking, gardening, cooking, and fishing. This year’s winter holiday camps were also sold out. The campers built igloos and learned snow ice skills.

The equipment library, which has moved three times in Leadville in the past few years and is spread across multiple storage bins, wasn’t as popular as the summer camps. Most of the programs involved vans and trucks carrying children and equipment to the surrounding Sawatch Range. The headquarters and the equipment library give the GOL program its first own home in the middle of a maze of public hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing trails.

“This is going to be great for us,” said Katz. “We can do programs right on our doorstep.”

GOL spent many months studying outdoor programs when it made the proposal to support GOCO. A major obstacle they identified in their research was the cost of equipment. Another “fundamental barrier,” said Katz, is the feeling of not feeling welcome on paths, rivers, trailheads, and cliffs.

“I think this facility has the potential to help,” she said. “We have room to grow, but we’re on the right track and … we’re always trying to figure out how to better reach out to people who haven’t felt welcome and don’t feel like the outside is for them.”

Chris Castilian, executive director of the lottery-backed Great Outdoors Colorado, created the Generation Wild program to connect disadvantaged communities with outdoor recreational facilities like trails and parks.

The first wave of funding from Generation Wild resulted in $ 13.5 million in six communities, which matched the grants of nearly $ 10 million on-site. The largest grant went to Lake County, where GOL brought together 70 different agency and community members, along with youth researchers, to develop a vision of a thriving, healthy community that is intimately connected with the vast outdoors that surrounds it.

“Lack of equipment. Access to nature. A feeling of not being welcome outdoors. These are the barriers that our Generation Wild coalitions are removing every day for Colorado’s diverse youth and families, ”Castilian said. “We at GOCO are so grateful that we can play a small role in helping youngsters out in the outdoors and helping to nurture the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. We couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing people and organizations in Leadville that provide equitable access to the natural core for us as a state. “