Outdoor Nation Delegates Land Micro-grants to Explore High School Mountain Biking, Climbing and Other Leagues

July 6, 2011

The annual series of Outdoor Nation gatherings got off to an auspicious beginning in New York late last month when delegates to the youth movement’s second annual national congress unexpectedly won three $2,500 grants to promote outdoor education and recreation through schools and local community organizations. As delegates’ ideas surfaced, The Outdoor Foundation was able to fund the three grants on the spot to get work going this summer.

The grants will be used to develop outdoor extracurricular activities for schools, including high school mountain biking and other leagues; create an outreach template community organizations and schools can use to raise awareness of local outdoor activities; and develop an online toolkit organizations can use to promote close-to-home outdoor opportunities to increase socioeconomic diversity of outdoor recreation.

The first initiative seeks to build on a model developed by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), which last September awarded grants to start high school mountain biking leagues in Minnesota, Washington and Texas. Such leagues have been competing in California for years and are developing in Colorado. Outdoor Nation Ambassador and competitive mountain biker Nitish Nag wants to explore whether the NICA model can work in climbing gyms and other areas.

The three grant awards were an unexpected outcome of the Outdoor Nation National Congress, which drew 50 youth representing each state to New York City on June 23-24. The delegates were also tasked with hammering out a declaration of rights and responsibilities that will guide discussions at five regional Outdoor Nation summits in the coming four weeks. Delegates became so energized during the National Congress that they broke into groups to address the responsibilities listed in their declaration, which are the responsibility to:

  • be an active citizen;
  • lead by example;
  • educate and share passion by providing relevant recommendations, skills, and outdoor experiences;
  • engage in advocacy for conservation and outreach programs to increase outdoor usage;
  • advocate for youth who lack opportunities for themselves;
  • mentor others to take their own initiative as Outsiders;
  • adapt outdoor spaces to reflect youth interests and
  • seek out partnerships and collaborative efforts.

The Outdoor Nation Summits kicked off June 24-26 when close to 200 kids from across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic gathered in New York City to talk about how to adapt and implement the National Congress’ declaration to their region. The series resumes in Atlanta this weekend before moving on to Minneapolis, Denver and San Francisco over the three weekends leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

“I want to say that Outdoor Nation is off to a fantastic start this year,” wrote Lawrence Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund in an email to fellow members of The Outdoor Foundation board of directors. “Last week I was able to participate in New York in the National Congress, comprised of 50 of our top Outdoor Nation young leaders representing each state, and the first of five Youth Summits, with some 150 outstanding young people from the northeast region. Both were amazing experiences, providing young people unmatched opportunities to express their visions of a future America and its magnificent outdoor heritage. Both also were terrific platforms for reinforcing The Outdoor Foundation’s leading role nationally in the effort to engage young people in the outdoor conversation. Most importantly, I believe we are making a real difference.”