Students may soon have the option to check out tents and sleeping bags pending an agreement between the Outdoor Adventure Club and Recreational Sports.
Lauren O’Neal, president of the club and a biology sophomore, approached the Rec Sports staff to talk about the university providing camping equipment in order to encourage students to get outdoors.
“I think it would really help a lot of students who don’t have the funds or don’t have the space for outdoor equipment if they were able to rent it from UTD,” O’Neal said.
Before meetings with Rec Sports could go any further, O’Neal and the club needed to gauge student interest in the project.
Ben Piper, the associate director of programs for Rec Sports, expressed the need to hear a large portion of students on campus wanting this equipment.
“(Rec Sports) didn’t want to jump into anything without knowing the numbers of students we might affect or knowing the grand scheme of what (O’Neal) has in mind,” Piper said. “If we have a large constituency that wants access to equipment like that for a reasonable price, then that would be something we would be interested in.”
The Outdoor Adventure Club was made official earlier this school year. O’Neal said the club’s mission is to help students get involved in outdoor activities and services.
“Creating a space where people can share interests and go do things together will contribute to campus life by creating connections between students,” O’Neal said.
The club held hiking and kayaking trips earlier in the year and plans to take a group to Dinosaur Valley State Park later this semester to camp.
“Another big point of the club is to help people get off campus,” O’Neal said, “Even if they don’t have cars or feel like they don’t have anybody to go with.”
O’Neal applied and won a $500 grant from Outdoor Nations, a non-profit organization concerned with getting the current generation outside, to engage the campus community in outdoor recreation.
O’Neal used the grant money to set up a bank account that would support club outings and fund necessary equipment.
Unlike other schools, UTD does not have any university-sponsored outdoor education programming. Piper does not see that changing in the immediate future.
“We’re not set up like other universities are. We don’t have an outdoor program,” Piper said. “We’re just not at that point yet.”
O’Neal has plans to set up a table to get a feel for student interest in the club at the Earth Week event happening later in April.
In order to further figure out other groups of students on campus that would support the project, O’Neal has approached the Sustainability Club and the Geoscience Club with the idea.
“It’s been hard to get momentum through that approach,” O’Neal said. “We’re hoping to get more of this idea out to a larger portion of the student body through out Earth Fair booth.”
Although Rec Sports needs more information on student interest before committing to the project, Piper recognizes the importance of the outdoors to college students.
“(It’s important) to be able to get away from the Metroplex and be in nature or see the stars and see how big the sky is,” Piper said. “Little things like that are just gigantic for refreshing somebody’s mindset and refocusing.”