Outdoor fun Event addresses joining, starting clubs

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 Outdoor fun Event addresses joining, starting clubs
Outdoor rock climbing was one of several recreation topics discussed last week at a special event at Osborne Conservation Center. Participants were given information on joining and starting clubs along with reminders of recretional opporunties in area parks.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Two local groups last week teamed up to share information on enjoying the great outdoors year-round.

Clayton County Conservation and Turkey River Recreational Corridor hosted an event at Osborne Conservation Center that gave representatives of several outdoor recreation clubs a chance to recruit members and to share suggestions for starting new clubs. Participating groups included Dubuque Paddlers, Tri-State Mountain Bikers, Mississippi Valley Running Association and Climb On (a climbing group).

An overwhelming response to other presentations was one reason for hosting the event.

“One of the more common—and most welcome—things we hear from people after a public event is that we need to host more things,” said Kenny Slocum, a naturalist and resource manager at Clayton County Conservation. “Whether it’s a hike, or a paddle, or a wild edibles workshop, it’s very common to hear, ‘You should do this monthly’ or ‘Do you think you’d do another one of these in the fall?’”

“We love hearing that because it means we’re doing things that are of interest to the people we serve. But unfortunately, people’s appetite for stuff like that is usually bigger than our capacity to host them, and something like a weekly hike or monthly trail run are the sort of things that are really better suited to a club.”

The clubs represented at last week’s event were carefully selected to align with the outcomes of a recent survey of park users. Among other things, survey respondents asked about the development of mountain biking trails and rock climbing areas.

“Both sound awesome but again with our staffing levels and capacity they’re not the kind of projects we can complete by ourselves,” Slocum said.

“Ultimately, our goal is to provide for the health and wellbeing of people, and to provide recreational opportunities for them,” Slocum continued. “Our ability to achieve that goal is directly correlated to the amount of well-organized, intentional support we can get from the people we serve. That’s where clubs, whether they’re informal like the Dubuque Paddlers or more rigorously structured like Mississippi Valley Running, come in.”

If you’d like to start a local club, a first step is gathering together people with similar interests. Clayton County Conservation can help by providing meeting space.

“We’ve also got the ability to cast a wide net on social and traditional media, and we can act as that connection between groups of people who might not otherwise meet each other,” said Slocum.

If you’re not the type to start or join a club but you still want to take advantage of what the area has to offer recreationally, Slocum reiterated the opportunities at Obsorne Park. Cross-country ski trails are groomed when there’s a sufficient base of snow. Snowshoes are available for rent at a nominal fee so park users can enjoy the same hiking trails that appeal to them in warmer weather.

“A lot of people seem to forget that a mild winter is no different than the spring or fall,” Slocum said. “There might not be leaves on the trees, but all of our campgrounds are open. Trout fishing gets better on warm winter days; keep an eye out for those 40°F-plus days when small midges (little flying insects) might hatch. Fish will be active so long as there’s food to eat.”

“So a lot of the same activities you might enjoy in the summer are available in the winter, only there’s no crowds. There are no mosquitos. There are no nettles or poison ivy. If you want to go for a long hike, it’s gonna be a lot less sweaty of an experience than the same hike in July. If you want to come and try our disc golf course, finding errant throws gets a lot easier without an understory of vegetation to camouflage it!”

While last weekend’s significant snowfall put disc golf on hold, hiking and cross-country skiing are definite options.

“And totally independent of the weather, winter is a phenomenal time for bird watching,” Slocum continues. “We have a little nook here at Osborne with ID cards, and big windows pointed at our bird feeders which get really busy on cold days. It’s a great spot to watch birds from a comfortable locale.”

All of the groups invited to last week’s presentation have a presence on Facebook and/or the Internet. Just search by each group’s name.

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