Participants are 'W.I.L.D.' about outdoor initiatives
Based on the show of interest, the W.I.L.D. initiative on campus has had a “fiercely” successful first year. W.I.L.D. (Wilderness Immersion Learning and Discovery) had its beginnings in one of the Student Affairs Division’s objectives: Wellness within Wilderness.
The University’s location has always seemed, to some, to be in the wilderness. So why not play up the assets?
Mark McFadden, director, Career Development Center, provided a brief history of W.I.L.D. In the late fall 2010, a committee was appointed to explore how to take advantage of Alfred University’s host of attractive outdoor venues. Out of that committee came W.I.L.D., formed in spring 2011 and charged with planning and coordinating activities that engage students, faculty, and community members — outdoors. The task is to identify outdoor activities and to educate AU students and community members regarding how to take advantage of the opportunities.
The W.I.L.D. leadership includes Cathie Chester, director of Counseling and Health Services; senior Ana Fredell; and McFadden, as co-chairs.
Members include Gretchen Lohnes, AVI chef; Kristen Kovatch, Western trainer/instructor, Equestrian Center; Norm Pollard, dean of students; Junior Kevin Keefe; Junior Eric Teller; Jennifer Enke; women’s soccer coach; Autumn McLain, residence hall director; Tricia Debertolis, assistant dean, New Student Programs; Nancy Kohler, director, Equestrian Program; Justin Grigg, University GIS specialist; and Senior Molly Finnerty.
Since last April, the group has been meeting to brainstorm ideas and formalize events.
“The idea is to find activities that allow students to engage in outdoor activities as opposed to lamenting our location,” said McFadden. “We need to appreciate and enjoy the natural resources we have here,” he continued, adding there already is a “level of enthusiasm and appreciation.”
One of the first activities was to partner with the student organization Forest People to perform trail maintenance around Foster Lake and the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center. Some 70 students joined the work bee.
The goal is to host a monthly event, ideally on the first weekend, said McFadden.
The first major event was the Horse to Holler trail hike on a Sunday afternoon in October 2011. More than 100 “hikers” participated. The hike began at Alfred University’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center and concluded at Pollywog Holler, an eco-lodge and artisan haven owned by AU alumnus Bill Castle ’88, where hikers enjoyed the Holler’s signature wood-fired pizza and refreshments.
Two aid stations and a s’more station were available at points along the trail offering water and snacks as well as “rustic” restrooms.
In November, a W.I.L.D. group performed maintenance on the Pine Hill trails adjacent to campus.
The first activity of the new year was a January off-campus trip by some 35 students and campus members to Swain Ski Resort. There was a failed attempt at a February hike from the Equestrian Center back to campus but the lack of snow produced a muddy mess and the hike was cancelled.
In March, W.I.L.D. once again partnered with Forest People and the two 2012 Student Innovation Award Winners, Ana Fredell and Kevin Keefe, to put on a community pancake breakfast at Fredell and Keefe’s Sugar Shack next to Joel’s House. More than 100 students, faculty, and staff dined on the sweet maple syrup and pancakes.
W.I.L.D. and the Judson Leadership Center are sponsoring a Friday night Hike in April featuring Jennifer Pharr Davis, who holds record for hiking the Appalachian Train covering 47 miles a day.
On May 6 there are plans for a whitewater-rafting trip in Letchworth State Park.
The group is already discussing plans for 2012-13 with repeats of some of the successful events, such as Horse to Holler, and some new attractions, possibly including using geographic information systems, cycling, and horse grooming, said McFadden.