Buncombe County Launches Outdoor Adventure Club

Local residents took the opportunity recently to test out several different kayak models during Buncombe County kayak demo days at Lake Julian. The next demo day will be Sunday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lake Julian with kayaks provided by Diamond Brand Outfitters.

Western North Carolina is associated with outdoor recreational activities like hiking, kayaking, fishing and camping.

While opportunities are everywhere, the activities still require some planning, training and equipment. Buncombe County Recreational Services wants more people in the area to experience outdoor sports, and this year they launched ‘Buncombe Outdoor Adventure Club.’

Josh O’Connor, Buncombe County Parks and Program Division manager, said the first experience into outdoor adventures can be intimidating, and the county wants to make it easier. Outdoor Adventure Club is an evolving concept that began in late spring with a series of fishing derbies, guided hikes and a ‘backyard’ campout held at Lake Julian. 

“The events hosted under Buncombe Outdoors are structured so no participant gets left behind, and everyone has fun while building confidence and further interest in outdoor recreation.” A few participants, including some new to the area, told O’Connor they tried hiking with local ‘meet up’ groups, but they found the experience too intense, or they did not have the right equipment for the hike. The focus of Outdoor Adventures is to provide a low cost of entry and to reduce barriers to participation. For the most part, participants need only register and show up. In many cases, the program can provide loaner gear to those who are not yet invested in a particular activity.

All ages are welcome, and children as well as older individuals have all shown up. One man told O’Connor, “I’ve lived here all my working life but never had the time to explore the outdoors.”  Most hikes are led by O’Connor and his staff, and they start with a safety briefing. O’Connor said event participation has started off slowly, a combination of its newness and unfavorable weather, but more events and activities are planned for the future.

A ‘Kids’ Fishing Tournament’ is scheduled for Sept. 23 at Lake Julian. Registration begins at 8 a.m.  The $10 fee includes lunch and prizes. There will also be an opportunity for children to try casting. Poles and targets for casting will be provided. 

 Buncombe Outdoors tagged onto the National Wildlife Federation’s ‘Great American Campout’ to provide a first time camping experience in the spring at Lake Julian.  Laura Trentman founder of Appalachia Camping Co., a service that provides camp setup and teardown for individuals who struggle with camping gear, time, or experience, came out to help with the campout. Trentman noted of the event, “There is so much to explore in WNC. Camping for first-timers can be intimidating. You say to yourself, ‘Did I remember to pack bug spray? Did I check the tent for any missing pieces? What if it rains? What are the kids going to do while I try to setup?’ This event is a great opportunity for families in the community to test the waters with a helping hand.”

As Buncombe Outdoors develops, the intent is to create partnerships with the local outdoor industry and offer incentives for participating. Diamond Brand Outdoors has been a sponsoring partner of Buncombe County Recreation Services over the past two years and hosts a series of boat demo days at Lake Julian Park. The demo days offer park attendees a chance to get out on the water while getting a flavor for the various boat models. The next event is scheduled for Sunday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re hoping that those involved with the outdoor industry will understand the value of engaging with the participants of Buncombe Outdoors,” O’Conner, said.  “It’s really a great way to develop a new customer segment by supporting their fledgling interest in outdoor recreation.”

O’Connor’s measurement of the program’s success is being able to create first-time outdoor recreational experiences for as many local individuals and families as possible.  For information on upcoming events, check the Buncombe County Recreation Services Facebook page. Information is also available at BuncombeCounty.org, and for specific questions and information, Josh O’Connor can be reached at 828-250-4260. Questions emailed to parks@buncombecounty.org will also be answered.

Cutline: Donated photo — Local residents took the opportunity recently to test out several different kayak models during Buncombe County kayak demo days at Lake Julian.  The next demo day will be Sunday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lake Julian with kayaks provided by Diamond Brand Outfitters.

By Mary Koppenheffer