This spring season, the city’s Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) department has partnered with Kids on Bikes and the Catamount Institute to offer an amazing Spring Break program. The program is called BOLT, Building Outdoor Leaders Today.
The program is designed to engage high school students in engaging in outdoor recreation while exploring career opportunities, citizen science, and leadership-building skills, regardless of their financial status or experience. This year’s focus was on bikepacking, i.e. backpacking, but all gear is strapped to mountain bikes.
Each participant left the program with a mountain bike, which they could keep to further explore the great outdoors. We had a multi-day training session to get participants used to cycling and to fix small issues they might encounter like burst tubes, chain failures and basic maintenance.
After a few months of training, we took the participants to Fruita, Colorado for a spring break bikepacking trip. We spent four nights camping, rotating locations from James M. Robb State Park to Rabbit Valley Campground in Mack, Colorado, and then to Highline Lake State Park. We biked and hiked over 40 miles this week.
This year’s focus was on bikepacking, i.e. backpacking, but all gear is strapped to mountain bikes.
The kids had a great time challenging themselves and learning along the way. Our main goal for this program, in addition to introducing outdoor recreation, was to instill a sense of self-confidence in the participants.
There is a sense of ownership of one’s safety and enjoying the great outdoors and it is important that everyone has the opportunity to experience this.
Our main financial goal for this program was to provide our participants with the necessary equipment, transportation and meals free of charge. We do this with funds from grants, partnerships, generous donations and sponsorships. Our goal is to make this program available to those who do not have the opportunity to access the great outdoors for themselves. The reward is seeing participants grow, learn and gain confidence in themselves.
Our next goal is an autumn holiday trip for a new group of participants. The focus of this next program is “Joys of Camping”. We will focus on what it means to camp and enjoy the campsite and the view while following the principles of Leave No Trace so others can enjoy the same campsite.
While many people return to their campsites after a hard day to sleep and recharge their batteries, it’s also important to recognize the benefit of pitching a tent or hammock and relaxing with a book or some music. We want to convey this “joy of camping” to the participants.
This time of peaceful reflection and relaxation can be hard to find for high school students struggling with the stresses of classes, activities, and family life.
This program should be a safe place for participants to speak out about what is happening in their lives. Camping outdoors away from these stressors allows them to discuss these issues and gain a different perspective. I routinely escape the city and choose to camp to escape that escape and recover from everyday stressors.
After a few months of training, we took the participants to Fruita, Colorado for a spring break bikepacking trip. We spent four nights camping, rotating locations from James M. Robb State Park to Rabbit Valley Campground in Mack, Colorado, and then to Highline Lake State Park.
I can only imagine the impact and resets would have on a person who has never had this opportunity before and with trained, experienced and caring staff to ensure they have the best experience possible.
This is a great opportunity for our community to support those who cannot afford or do not have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors on their own.
If you would like to support the program or have ideas on how we can improve the program, please contact me at [email protected] We always welcome volunteers and mentors!
Josh is a park ranger in the Trails, Open Space & Parks (TOPS) stewardship program and is the contact for Stratton Open Space. He loves camping, mountain biking, fishing and spending time with his bark ranger, Graham Thomas.