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Photo provided by Leanne Chapman.

Outdoor Pursuits jumps back into hosting day hikes, outdoor programs

Ohio University’s Well-Being and Recreation, previously known as Campus Recreation, has reopened this Spring Semester with new events for students and community members alike.  

OU closed and canceled many of its outdoor and recreation opportunities last semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with increasing access to vaccines across the country, the university even recently reopened its climbing wall in Ping Recreation Center.

Leanne Chapman, a graduate assistant for Outdoor Pursuits who specializes her work on the climbing wall, said with increased safety precautions, the reopening of the climbing wall has been a smooth start.

“We opened up at the beginning of February … so that’s been really nice to have some sense of normalcy, to have people in here,” Chapman said. “We just have a few more precautions that we take naturally with COVID … like using hand sanitizer before and after climbing, or wiping down pieces of equipment, or putting certain pieces like harnesses into a different bin and they’re only used once a day, stuff like that.”

The climbing wall is open Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for any students to come climb. Chapman encourages any students to come and try out the climbing wall, even if they’re scared or have never tried it before.

“I just want people to feel welcome to come to the climbing area and try something new,” Chapman said. “I just think in general, what we all really want is to ... be a place people can come to and feel welcome and be included to try these new things. It’s really our goal, with all our programming, to connect people and build a really solid community.”

Judd Walker, assistant director for Well-Being and Recreation, is overjoyed to see high numbers of participation in Outdoor Pursuits’ most recent events.

“This spring, we got the climbing wall back open,” Walker, who focuses on Outdoor Pursuits, explained. “So people can come and have a whole pretty safe, socially distant time … And for our programming, to actually get people outside, we’ve been offering day trips.”

Photo provided by Leanne Chapman.

The outdoor pursuit day trips usually consist of about three hours of hiking within the Athens area, led by a guide. In April, Outdoor Pursuits plans to shift gears and focus on paddling and canoeing rather than hiking.

“The university isn’t allowing us to run overnight trips, which is usually kind of our bread and butter, so we had to get a little bit creative,” Walker said. “But it’s been cool, because it’s allowed my staff to refocus on all the really good hiking and paddling and everything that’s right here, literally within the city.”

Walker hinted at a possible climbing competition on the horizon for Outdoor Pursuits, and encouraged students to keep up with OU’s recreational activities to stay involved and active. The first canoeing program will be April 1, scheduled on one of the university’s wellness days in order to make the program more available.

“I think, in general, COVID has been really isolating for a lot of people, and I think that this winter in Athens was a particularly long one – it was really snowy and gloomy,” Walker said. “I think that it’s really important for people, for their own mental well being, to get outside. And this is a really cool, free way to do it, and we’re gonna expose people to things that they didn’t even know existed, right here in our own backyard.”

Photo provided by Leanne Chapman.

Students can sign up online for future events in advance by registering here.


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