Evan Marczynski/The AS Review
For four decades, the AS Outdoor Center (OC) has provided Western students with programs, activities and equipment to get them outside to enjoy the great outdoors.
On Thursday, May 27 the OC will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an all-day event in the PAC Plaza, which will include several activities, giveaways, food and live music.
The free event starts at 11 a.m. and will continue throughout the day.
OC Marketing Coordinator Katie Howell said the idea of the celebration is to throw a 40th birthday party for the OC.
In keeping with that birthday theme, Howell has planned scavenger hunts, relay races with gear from the OC and an obstacle course that participants will have to navigate through in order to smash piñatas set up at the end.
Throughout the afternoon, there will also be a number of outdoor-themed clinics at the center itself in VU 150, a large map of the Bellingham area for people to draw and write their favorite outdoor spots on and prize giveaways.
Starting at 5 p.m., the center will host a concert with local songwriters Jason Caudill and Nathan Getzin, as well as local band Talk Ivory.
After 40 years of operation, the staff at the OC reflected upon the past and talked about their goals for the future.
OC Manager Fred Collins said that increasing safety is the main thing he has emphasized in the five years he has worked at the OC. The staff is always looking for the best possible way to implement new programs while still focusing on keeping participants safe at all times, he said.
“We’ve raised the bar on everything,” Collins said.
Excursion Co-coordinator Max Wilbert said that a major component for the center this year has been to increase the diversity of activities, programs and educational opportunities available to students.
“I think definitely our goals over the course of this year have been to branch out into some new areas,” he said.
Wilbert said he has also tried to emphasize outdoor activities that are less specialized than other, more physically demanding excursions the OC offers. For example, this year, they organized a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, a bird watching expedition and various road biking trips.
Additionally, Wilbert said he has also reached out to various AS student clubs this year to try to increase the visibility of the OC on campus. The fact that the OC is located on the first floor of the Viking Union facing Garden Street can make it difficult for the center to attract attention, he said.
“You kind of got to make an effort to come here and a lot of people just don’t know it’s here or don’t know what we do,” Wilbert said. “So I’m coming to the conclusion more and more that we’ve just got to increase our outreach, our connection to other groups on campus.”
Besides the events taking place for the anniversary celebration, the staff has thought up some additional new and creative ways to promote the center.
Toward the end of the quarter, they plan to rent out the fountain in Red Square for a kayaking demonstration to promote the kayaking lessons and trips the OC offers every quarter. In addition, they have what Wilbert called the “bike trike,” a modified bicycle equipped with bike repair tools that can be ridden around campus.
Collins said that the trike allows the center to publicize some of the bike-related services they provide and it also functions as a mobile bicycle repair clinic.
At the same time the staff at the center looks back on 40 years of operation, they also have a positive outlook for the future and have particular goals in mind to maintain the quality and diversity of the programs and events the OC has to offer.
Collins said his main goal was to do everything in his power to help people learn to love and appreciate the outdoors just as much as he and his staff do.
“I want people to know that we are here, we’re available and there’s nothing we won’t do to introduce them to the outdoors,” he said.
Wilbert said the activities available at the Outdoor Center can provide an excellent way for people to relax after dealing with the strenuous balancing act that students face every quarter dealing with classes, homework, tests and social lives.
He added that getting outside to go on a kayaking expedition, a rock climb or a bike ride can be a great method to deal with the stress of school or work.
“People are so busy these days and a lot of people just go home and turn on the TV, or hop on the computer and then sleep and then repeat,” Wibert said. “I think it’s so valuable to have a resource like the OC where you can have an opportunity to go outside and get away from all of that.”
Excursion Co-Coordinator Kapper Richmond echoed the sentiments of his colleagues.
“I want people to know that we’re here and we’re here to do anything that you want,” Richmond said. “If you don’t know what to do outside, give us a weekend and let us introduce you to it, because it’s amazing.”