The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 107: Inner-City Outings, part 1

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

GABRIELLA: Like, it's like kind of fun coming up here, and seeing different animals and plants that you really don't see in the city.

STEVE: This week on The WildeBeat; Inner-City Outings, part one.

[Intro Music & SFX; 0:07.6 and under]

News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one oh seven, made possible by your membership donations.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

[Intro Music: 0:04.5 ends]

STEVE: Earlier this year, in our show number seventy three, we heard from Nina Roberts, Ph.D., an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

NINA ROBERTS: A smaller proportion of the population of the US visiting wilderness and outdoor areas are ethnic minorities. ...but it's changing as more people become interested, educated and desire to travel and learn about and experience outdoor areas.

STEVE: This is the next in a series of follow-up stories on diversity in wilderness users. In these editions, we'll take a look at people who are making a difference in bringing a wilderness experience to under-served groups.

[SFX: Children approaching]

STEVE: It's late in the afternoon. I'm at the Arroyo Seco campground in California's Los Padres National Forest. I'm watching a group of about a dozen grade school children returning from a hike to their campsite.

[SFX: Children approaching]

STEVE: Larry Volpe is a fifth grade teacher in San Jose, and a volunteer outing leader for the Sierra Club's Inner-City Outings program.

LARRY VOLPE: This is my favorite place to come... And I bring kids, usually about a dozen, no more than that, and I usually get two or three adults to help me, and we just do a lot of hiking, lot of swimming, looking for bugs. We do a night hike here... We see a lot of amphibians, a lot of reptiles, and at nighttime we see bats, we've seen probably about a dozen deer just today. I've seen foxes here before, and it's just an incredible place because of it's uniqueness here on the river ecosystem that comes through here.

STEVE: Sergio is one of Larry Volpe's students.

SERGIO: And then we went hiking ...and we kept on going on this road, and then we saw, or Mr. Volpe spotted, an alligator, I think an alligator or a crocodile lizard, and he showed it to us, and he was helping it. He took out the ticks from it. And we came back, well, actually we kept on going, and we started to swim. We caught some crayfish. Oh and then we came back, came walking, ...that's all.

STEVE: Graciella is one of Sergio's classmates.

GRACIELLA: Today, when I woke up it was raining. It was kind of fun because we got to play games, ...And then we went hiking, and then we went in to the river, and then we found fishes, we found turtles, and that's all.

STEVE: What did you think about finding the fishes and the turtles?

GRACIELLA: Fun. Funny, and icky.

STEVE: Is this really different from what you do when you're at home?

GRACIELLA: Yeah. A lot of exercise and fun time. When I'm home I sit down and do my homework and then later on I go use the computer, then take a shower, then go to sleep.

STEVE: What do you do on weekends when you're at home, if you don't go on a trip like this?

GRACIELLA: I go to parties, and that's all.

STEVE: Back at their camp site, the kids get cleaned-up and changed into warmer clothes, while the adults start preparing dinner.

[SFX: Fade out hiking]

STEVE: In the interest of full disclosure, I have an affiliation with the Sierra Club, as an outing leader for a separate section. A few days earier, I visited the Sierra Club's headquarters in San Francisco. There I talked with Debra Asher. Debra is the nationwide administrator of the Sierra Club's Inner-City Outings program, which she calls I-C-O.

DEBRA ASHER: The official mission statement of I-C-O is that it's a Sierra Club community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy, and protect the natural world. It does that via bringing positive outdoor experiences, to primarily youth... who would otherwise never have a chance to do this kind of stuff. We have about forty-eight groups right now. They're each sponsored by their local Sierra Club chapter and or regional group.

STEVE: Except for Debra, and another part-time assistant, the entire program is run by volunteers.

DEBRA ASHER: The I-C-O volunteers hook up with social service agencies, for example, community centers, school groups, after school programs, church groups, anything that's got an organized population of youth who fit this criteria... but they have no outdoor component to their program. And they work out a relationship with the agency staff and the kids they work with to set up outings. Ninety percent or maybe eighty five percent of the outings are day hikes on the weekends, and then groups that have more volunteers are able to do car camping trips on the weekend, backpacking trips, some of them do canoeing trips, some of them do skiing, cross-country skiing, depending on the season, depending on the geography, depending on the wherewithal of the volunteers.

STEVE: So getting into the wilderness for a car camp, or a ski trip, or a backpacking trip, requires some specialized and expensive gear. Who funds this stuff? I don't imagine the parents do.

DEBRA ASHER: No. We're constantly fund raising... If I can procure a national grant that can be distributed out to the groups, I do that. Each group, however, is pretty much on their own for fund raising. Now, there's no overhead, there's no staff expenses, there's no office expenses, so any fund raising each group does goes directly into the outings. Transportation, food, permits, equipment. People like R-E-I have been very generous to I-C-O groups across the country now, and if local groups are able to get grants from them, they're able to purchase pretty nice equipment, which lasts awhile. There is a constant need for funds because we don't charge the participants money for these outings... But ICO really does provide the basic equipment, especially, like you said, if they're going on camping trips, most of the I-C-O groups have a stash of basic camping equipment and clothing. Again, the more extensive the outing, the more frequent the outing, the group needs more funds to provide this. So it's a constant struggle actually, but, the program continues to grow.

STEVE: Imagine I'm the parent of a child who is a candidate for the program. And perhaps my English isn't that great, or my own exposure to the outdoors is maybe none, how would I know that my child would be reasonably safe on one of these outings?

DEBRA ASHER: Well, that's a good question... that's a big part of my job, to make sure leaders are trained and in compliance with national Sierra Club outings leaders standards... Each trip must have at least one certified leader... Certified leaders must go through first aid training, hands-on training on an outing... We do a background checks and DMV checks if they're driving. Plus go on an outing with somebody who's already certified, they're checked off, they're screened very carefully... Now, ...the kids are already connected to some kind of social service agency, so the agency staff is really responsible for communicating with the parents, and saying we're putting our rubber stamp on this organization, we trust them, etc., etc... I think there are many cultural differences. There are issues with parents not feeling comfortable sending their kids on these trips... The I-C-O volunteer has to deal with a lot of things, and it's a big job and it's a real big volunteer commitment, and I'm always astounded that the program continues on a lot of good faith. They're really incredible people these ICO volunteers.

STEVE: So what do the kids think of the Inner-City Outings program? How does it affect them and their parents? What's it like to be an I-C-O outing leader, and how can you become one? Find out next week, in part two.

STEVE: Our thanks to Wilderness Press. For a limited time, become a WildeBeat member and get up to five books from Wilderness Press as a thank you gift.

[Closing Music: 0:10 and under]

Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. We need your help to bring you future editions of this free service; please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one oh seven. Thank you for listening.

[Closing Music: ends.]

Next time -- Inner-City Outings, part two.

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