This year, the University of Maine is taking part in the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge. It is a competition among 90 colleges across the United States to get students engaged in outdoor activities. The challenge officially begins on Sept. 18.
“We are competing against all these other schools to be ‘the most outdoorsy school in the nation,’’’ Lisa Carter, the director of Maine Bound Adventure Center, said.
The competition is conducted entirely through the Outdoor Nation mobile app. Every participant logs their outdoor activities by taking a photo of evidence that they got outside and were active, be it a photo of their shadow or a selfie.
The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge was created with the goal of getting as many people outside as possible. According to a report by Common Sense Media, teenagers spend over eight hours a day looking at screens. The American College Health Association reports that 29 percent of college students are overweight.
“Those outdoor activities can range from stargazing, bird watching, hammocking, running in the trails, paddling, outdoor or indoor rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding,” Carter said.
With the goal of getting students outside, Maine Bound works to make their trips as affordable as possible.
“If you compare our trips to any other trips by another guiding service, they’re extremely cheap,” Carter said.
Maine Bound charges members between $15 and $80 for all trips leaving the campus.
“One thing we have done recently is that we have a van now,” Carter said. “Instead of charging the students the cost of renting vans from motor pool, all we do now is build in the price of gas.”
Carter shared that the hardest part of getting inexperienced students on trips is competing with more accessible and less intimidating means of entertainment, such as eating out or going to the movies.
“I don’t know that [new students] would see a flyer and say, ‘oh, I would like to go to Otter Cliffs to go rock climbing,’ because they might not really know what that really means.”
She believes that it takes more than a flyer to get students to see the value in such an adventure.
Colleen Hoffman and Sharon Audibert are the student ambassadors for the challenge. When talking about why she became an ambassador, Hoffman said, “I’m psyched to get people outdoors. I see it as a form of therapy.”
Audibert shared that being outdoors is important to her, and that she sees the competition as a great way to meet people with similar values.
Hoffman and Audibert will be tabling on the Mall every day besides Monday for the duration of the challenge, which ends on Oct. 15.
Maine Bound has been leading the way in the effort to promote the challenge, working with the Student Life department and Orono Parks and Recreation. There are several promotional events planned, including a visit by the L.L. Bean Bootmobile for the start of the challenge on Monday and Tuesday. Maine Bound will be doing giveaways and offering students a chance to try slacklining. Maine Bound will also host Ed Webster, a renowned mountaineer and first ascensionist, in the Hauck Auditorium on Sept. 29.
Paddle Fest will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Steamplant lot. Maine Bound will bring out canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for participants to try out. There will be free food and live music for participants to enjoy. Maine Bound will also be holding the Blackout Climbathon on Oct. 5 and a 5K trail run by headlamp on Oct. 13. All Maine Bound trips can be used to get points for the challenge. Maine Bound’s full event and trip schedule can be found at umaine.edu/campusrecreation/mainebound.