WTA's Model for Empowering Leaders to Inspire New Outdoor Enthusiasts - Andrew Pringle

Nothing is more important than helping young people in our communities to reach their full potential. That’s why so many of us are concerned with the well-documented trend of young people spending increasingly less time outdoors, which is correlated with negative effects on wellness and behavior. We find hope in related studies, which have shown that increased access to outdoor experiences can have dramatic positive effects. However, we know that access to these opportunities is not equitable, and several recent articles have highlighted the the lack of diversity in our National Parks and in the outdoors in general. Most of us feel a deep commitment to expanding access to the outdoors so that more people benefit from the experiences that lead us to value our wild places. Washington Trails Association (WTA) has made that commitment to making the outdoors more accessible to more people through its Outdoor Leadership Training program and Gear Library. The program gets school-age youth outside by empowering educators and youth group leaders with the skills and resources they need to plan safe and fun outings. Graduates of the program’s hiking, camping, backpacking and snowshoeing workshops get access to free gear lending, funding assistance and a supportive community to help them in their efforts to inspire new outdoor enthusiasts.