This spring season, the city’s Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) division joined forces with Kids on Bikes and the Catamount Institute to offer an amazing spring break program. The program is called B.O.L.T., Building Outdoor Leaders Today.
The program is designed to get high school students engaged in outdoor recreation while exploring career opportunities, citizen science and leadership building skills, regardless of financial status or experience. This year’s focus was on bike packing, which is backpacking but all the gear is strapped to mountain bikes.
Every participant left the program with a mountain bike they can keep, allowing them to continue to explore the outdoors. We had several days of training to get participants used to biking and able to fix small issues they may run across like popped tubes, chain failures and basic maintenance.
After a couple of months of training, we took the participants to Fruita, Colo. for a bike packing spring break trip. We spent four nights camping, changing sites from James M. Robb State Park to Rabbit Valley Campground in Mack, Colo. and then to Highline Lake State Park. We ended up biking and hiking over 40 miles that week.
The kids had a blast challenging themselves and learning along the way. Our main goal for this program, along with introducing outdoor recreation, was to instill a sense of confidence in the participants.
There is a sense of ownership of your own safety and fun in nature and it’s important for everyone to have an opportunity to experience that.
Our main financial goal for this program was to provide all necessary gear, transportation and food for our participants at no cost. We do this with funding from grants, partnerships, generous donations and sponsorships. We aim to provide this program for those who don’t have the opportunity to gain access to the great outdoors on their own. The reward is seeing the participants grow, learn and gain confidence in themselves.
Our next goal is to have a fall break trip for a new group of participants. The emphasis for this next program will be the “Joys of Camping.” We will focus on what it means to camp and enjoy the campsite and views while following Leave No Trace principles so that others can enjoy the same campsite.
While many people return to their campsites after busy days to sleep and recharge, it’s also important to realize the benefit of setting up a tent or hammock and relaxing with a book or some music. We want to teach the participants about this “joy of camping.”
This time of peaceful reflection and relaxation can be hard to find for high school students dealing with the stress of classes, activities and family life.
This program should be a safe place for participants to vent about what is happening in their lives. Camping in the outdoors away from those stressors allows for them to discuss those issues and gain another perspective. I routinely escape the city and opt to go camping to have that escape and reset from everyday stressors.
I can only imagine the kind of impact and reset that would have on an individual that who has never before had that opportunity and with trained, experienced and caring staff to ensure that they have the best experience possible.
This is a huge opportunity for our community to assist those who can’t afford or don’t have the chance to explore the outdoors on their own.
If you feel inclined to support or have ideas of how we can improve the program, please reach out to me at Josh.Joyner@ColoradoSprings.gov. We always welcome volunteers and mentors!
Josh is a Park Ranger within the Trails, Open Space & Parks (TOPS) stewardship program and the Point of Contact for Stratton Open Space. He enjoys camping, mountain biking, fishing, and spending time with his Bark Ranger, Graham Thomas.
This content first appeared in The Gazette’s “The Tribune” and is reprinted here with permission from Pikes Peak Newspapers. It is part of a monthly column, “Ranger Ramblings.”