Spotlight: UW-Green Bay’s new Outdoor Adventure Recreation Program

Charting courses is nothing new for Ethan Harvey.

The brand-new University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Outdoor Adventure Recreation Coordinator has spent the past eight years picking out routes to take in rock climbing, paddling and hiking.

In fact, while earning his degrees from the University of Northern Iowa, Harvey dramatically altered his courses from a 2014 bachelor’s degree in English to his 2018 Master’s Degree in Leisure, Youth and Human Services.

His newest challenge is even bigger. Harvey will chart the course for the University’s fledgling Phoenix outdoor recreation program, which started this Fall.

“We have many students who enjoy the opportunity to engage with the outdoors and we want them to know that is part of their potential experience here,” UW-Green Bay Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Climate Eric Arneson said. “This new program gives us yet another opportunity to foster our passion for diversity and inclusion. We want every student here to have a voice and a place on our campus — this creates a great way for them to connect with each other, while enjoying our incredible area.”

The program is based out of the Kress Events Center, which houses a six-station, 28-foot climbing tower in the fitness center. That is already fully operational, but Harvey’s plans encompass the entire 789-acre campus and a much wider area than that. Inclusion also means students from Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan campuses can participate, as well as the Green Bay community at large.

“Our new program will create a meaningful connection point between our campus, students and the community,” Arneson predicted.

Where does it begin?

“As far as this year is concerned, we’re lucky in that we already have the rock wall set up and a good student staff here,” Harvey said. “The biggest thing right now is getting ready for adventure trips in the spring semester. We need to lay out all the policies for that, decide how we are going to market it and find, hire and train student trip leaders.”

He already has what he terms “a pretty decently long sign-up sheet” of students who want information about such trips and took three of them on a backpacking training trip to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan recently.

“We’re trying to work on an arrangement where we can have 10 people on a trip, two or three of whom would be leaders,” Harvey said. “For example, I’m hoping to do the Appalachian Trail for Spring Break. A trip like that is cheap and people recognize and want to do it.”

In addition to the rock wall and adventure trips, the other two pillars of Harvey’s structure for the program are an equipment rental program and skills and instructional clinics.

Those trips will also include shorter excursions.

“The format I will try to work with is where we have weekend, extended weekend and break trips,” Harvey revealed. “Weekend trips will have Friday afternoon departures and return to campus Sundays. Extended trips will have a Thursday departure and Sunday return. Not everybody can afford or has the time to do big trips, so I also want to do day trips. Maybe meet at 5 p.m. Tuesdays and go on hike at the Arboretum. Or, meet at this spot, hop in the kayak and go play on Green Bay for a little bit.”

In other words, Harvey has a blank canvas.

“I’ve been given a really free hand,” he pointed out. “It’s been kind of intimidating because you have to pick your own direction. I have been getting a lot of policy advice, however, things you need to think about. You have policies that cover travel, food and compensation for volunteers. But the umbrella doesn’t quite extend far enough to cover what we do. They don’t micromanage me on the other side of things (outdoor recreation, planning, staffing, training). They are helping me fit into the rest of the campus system. I need to shape my puzzle piece to fit the university’s needs. The risk management folks have been really helpful.”

What will that canvas look like in 2018-2019?

“I think a program like this encompasses what you envision it,” Harvey said. “We will do traditional stuff like backpacking, rock climbing and sea kayaking. I also envision involvement with cross country skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing and downhill skiing. With this area, how could you not?”

Arneson agrees with that assessment.

“Green Bay presents an ideal place for this program,” he said. “Given the beauty of the area and our proximity to the bay.”

Call the addition of the program part of a holistic approach UW-Green Bay is taking regarding its most valuable resource — its students.

“The physical side of it is obvious,” Harvey said, “whether you’re paddling 40 miles over a weekend or hiking 20 miles. I did a 12-mile backpack this past weekend and my body is feeling it. The mental aspect is sometimes overlooked,” he continued. “You get a lot of really positive outcomes from participating in outdoor recreation. For some people, it’s like a battery recharge. When you go on a trip over the weekend, it brings you back to center and gets you a little more motivated for the start of the next week.”

It goes even further than that.

“From the stress management side of things, at some point on every single trip I have been uncomfortable,” Harvey admitted. “It’s just the nature of being in the back country. You have to figure out how to work through your discomfort — enjoy yourself in spite of it or with it rolled into the experience. You learn how to turn situations into something positive. Once you’ve done it enough, it pervades your every-day life. ”

Proper supervision means the program is there for everybody.

“Just because you haven’t gone on an adventure trip before and you’re not experienced, that’s not a constraint,” Harvey emphasized. “A lot of these are going to be no experience necessary. It’s one of the big reasons we’re here, to get students recreating in the great, wide outdoors, who may never get  there without us.”

When that happens, Harvey has accomplished his goal.

By freelance writer Jay Lillge, for UW-Green Bay’s Office of Marketing and University Communication

Click thumbnails to enter slideshow view or view the album on Flickr.

– Photos by Ethan Harvey, University Recreation and Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication