The first things a lot of people notice about Trent University’s Peterborough campus are, that it is surrounded by trees and the Otonabee River runs through it. Yet, many students don’t get outside and experience the magnificent natural beauty that surrounds us.
As founder Noah Korne explains, that’s where Trent Outdoors Club comes in. The Outdoors Club was established in 2016 and students voted to approve their levy in spring 2018. Full-time undergraduate students now pay an annual refundable contribution of $3.07 each, which goes toward funding outdoor adventure events and activities for the Trent student body.
The Trent Outdoors Club’s mission is to facilitate student access to the outdoors on the Trent campus, in the Kawarthas and further afield. Their Facebook page states “Our goal is to provide opportunities for people to get outside and participate in fun activities… We are looking to create a friendly learning environment in which we can be active and make new friends.”
Since securing levy funding Trent Outdoors has grown rapidly. The club has now amassed over 1000 members in their Facebook group, and roughly estimates reaching at least half of these members at events throughout the school year.
In the last year, Trent Outdoors has offered a wide range of activities for students to get involved in, both on and off campus. On-campus activities included weekly hikes during the spring and fall, snowshoeing during winter, campfires, slacklining, and a year end pub night at the Ceilie.
Off-campus day trips included climbing at Rock and Rope, downhill skiing and snowboarding at Brimacombe, skating on the Peterborough canal, stand-up paddle boarding and beach clean-up with Wild Rock, Ganaraska Treetop Trekking, and hikes in Algonquin, Petroglyphs and Killarney Provincial Parks.
In addition, the Outdoors Club teamed up with The Land Canadian Adventures to offer three week-long camping trips: one in the spring, in the fall and in the winter.
As a result of levy funding, these trips were all offered either free or heavily subsidized. Arthur sat down to chat with one of the head executive team members for this coming school year, Dee Green and Trent alum/founder of Trent Outdoors Noah Korne. Korne stated that levy funding goes towards alleviating the prohibitive financial barrier to participating in the outdoors. Green reiterated the importance of levy fees in making these trips much more accessible for students.
When asked how they expect the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI) to affect their club, Korne said, “The [SCI] is not an existential threat to us. It’s not going to change how we operate the trips that we offer, but it may change the amount of subsidy that we can offer.” For example, last year Trent Outdoors was able to half the cost of canoeing trips, saving each student over $200.
Lowering this financial barrier is fundamental in ensuring that all Trent students have access to the outdoors. This club has given students who never had the chance, an opportunity to try new experiences, like winter camping and rock climbing – at a significantly lower cost.
Green expressed concern about the club’s ability to make their trips as accessible in the future with their funding now in limbo, saying, “Hopefully people coming to Trent will understand the importance of buying into the outdoors… There will be people who make assumptions, but [we hope] Trent Outdoors will open their eyes.”
Indeed, Trent Outdoors has been an eye-opener for many students. Korne and Green both happily described introducing students with little or no experience to new adventures in the outdoors. Their faces lit up as they recalled participants, especially international students, who had their first experiences with activities such as canoeing, snowshoeing or winter camping in the Canadian wilderness. Teaching students to interact with nature respectfully and responsibly, is central to the ethos of Trent Outdoors.
For some students it is as simple as introducing them to nature areas right on Trent’s Peterborough campus, like firepits and the drumlin. Korne mentioned that the Outdoors Club is “providing space for people who might not take the initiative to get out in nature otherwise, or maybe just don’t know where to start.” Trent Outdoors serves as a gateway to the natural areas which surround us – as ambassadors to the wild.
This club has fostered a thriving community of like-minded individuals, accepting of students from all backgrounds. Both Korne and Green emphasized the importance of having the club completely unattached from academia. Trent Outdoors draws diverse participants and brings students together regardless of college affiliation or academic program.
When the pressure of academia builds up, getting out into the fresh air is important and proven to increase mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Trent Outdoors ensures that their weekly campus hikes continue during exams, even if there are only a few attendees. This provides a way for students to get outside, destress, and “focus on something bigger than you,” as Green put it. Stepping away from work can be challenging, but is made easier by weekly hikes, as they are only one hour, completely free, and take place right on the Symons campus.
All of this is made possible by a dedicated team of about ten executive members who volunteer their time to organize and facilitate the Outdoors Club’s operations and events. They explained that having a big executive team is beneficial as to balancing their involvement with school and ensures continuity despite student turnover.
Korne understands that students want to save money where they can, but hopes that students will give levy groups a chance before choosing to opt out. The Trent Outdoors Club asks students, “When was your last adventure?” Encouraging everyone to start today, and go explore.
To learn more or to get involved, Trent Outdoors Club can be reached via Facebook, Instagram or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). They are always open to ideas for events, so please don’t hesitate to connect. See you outside!