Ah, Eugene, “a great city for the arts and outdoors,” especially if you have the right gear, training and financial means to actually get down and dirty in the area’s natural wonders.
One factor for enjoying the outdoors is having access in the first place. The Eugene Rec Outdoor Program provides just that for Eugeneans, and the organization’s 50th anniversary is right around the corner.
Originally established by clean-water advocate Mel Jackson and the city of Eugene in the late 1960s, the outdoor program later was expanded by the Eugene Parks and Rec department. The group eventually acquired the nickname River House, seeing as the building is smack dab on the river. Canoeing, rock-climbing, white-water rafting and other activities have been added to the program’s activity list over time, and accessibility for the courses is a consistent factor for the River House team.
“We have a goal of making our program inclusive and accessible to anyone wanting to participate,” says program supervisor Roger Bailey, who’s been with River House for nearly 30 years. Bailey says he’s seen the positive community influence that accessible outdoor programs offer. “That is our mission,” Bailey says, “to help people grow and to help make this community a better place to live.”
For Bailey, this means approaching courses with “cultural respect, accountability, honesty and integrity.” He says more energy is going towards focusing on financial accessibility, and a youth sailing course provided by the outdoor program was recently able to share scholarships for low-income children.
“Every walk of life comes here to take our programs,” Bailey explains. River House programs provide people with, as he puts it, skills that need to be learned outside of school or work. Whether you’re feeling like honing your outdoorsy side in town or want to put some spur-of-the-moment REI purchase to the test out in the forest, the program has activities for all levels, and few exceed a $40 price tag — not to mention the handful of courses that are free to the public.
The River House’s 50th-anniversary celebration will be 4 to 7 pm Saturday, July 23, at 301 N. Adams Street, with food, circus arts, cake, kayaks and paddle boards provided at the event; more info at eugene-or.gov.