Explore Fund Grantee Profile:: The American River Conservancy

Sep 13, 2011 9:00 AM ET
Campaign: Explore Fund

2011 Explore Fund Grantee Profile :: The American River Conservancy

This past summer I had the opportunity to once again lead a group of teenagers into my favorite mountain range: the Sierra Nevada. I find great satisfaction in knowing that my passion for the outdoors can be translated into something that I can make a living doing. As the environmental education program manager for the American River Conservancy, I spend a great deal of time working with youth and teaching them about conservation and wilderness, without knowing the impact that I’m having. Spending two weeks with a dozen teenagers can be very challenging at times, but that time is also so enjoyable when I get to take the participants rafting down the South Fork American River, kayaking on Lake Tahoe or backpacking through Yosemite National Park. As fun as those activities are, one of my favorite parts is looking over the many evaluations and seeing the participants’ enthusiasm come through in words. I am inspired to continue as an outdoor educator because of the experience of so many of my participants. As one teen, Steph put it: “It’s trips like these that have continued to expand my appreciation for wilderness and the service projects we did led me to see the immense need to protect these lands.” It’s what every environmental educator wants to hear.

Epic Sierra Adventures was born from my passion for the outdoors – more specifically the rivers and mountains of the Sierra Nevada. I have worked over the last couple of years to establish Epic Sierra as an affordable adventure travel and service learning program. At the Conservancy, we believe ALL youth, regardless of socio-economic status, deserve the chance to explore the outdoors. My experience camping and exploring the woods behind my house as a child were critical in helping shape me as an adult. It’s something I hope to hand down to others. Epic Sierra provides so many opportunities for youth to explore nature: rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking. Yet some of the most impactful personal experiences come from the various volunteer service projects we do along the way. This year we worked on a water conservation garden in South Lake Tahoe in a neighborhood severely affected by a forest fire 2 years ago, took part in an invasive weed removal project with Yosemite National Park biologists, and performed habitat restoration efforts and trail work with Friends of the Inyo in the eastern Sierra and. “It was a completely new experience and every moment was new, different and challenging. I really liked doing the trail work because I felt like I was making more of an impact than anything else we did,” says Sarah, participant.

With support from The North Face’s Explore Fund, and other partners, Epic Sierra was able to provide nearly 1/3 of our participants with reduced price scholarships this year. For many of the recipients, they could not have done this type of program without some sort of financial support. With the success of this year’s program, I look forward to sharing the joy of the outdoors with many more youth over the years. Thanks to the support of The North Face, the Conservancy continues to its legacy of protecting wild places while encouraging youth (and adults) to connect with the land. Together, The North Face and the Conservancy are providing youth with the opportunity to learn new skills, to step beyond boundaries and engage in a variety of outdoor recreational activities.