With a forecast of 41°F, rain and wind (perfect hypothermia weather), this Californian in the Chicago mix was a little worried that the crew we had signed up for the first ChicaGo Explorers Front Country Leadership Training might not brave the elements to join us. Instead, 16 youth workers, parks and rec staff, community activists, social scientists and teachers showed up with smiles and true Midwestern grit. Over the next two days together on Northerly Island, a hidden gem of the Chicago Park District in Lake Michigan, we shared skills, strategies, and tips to support the vision of all to connect Chicago’s youth with the outdoors.
What the Chicago Park District is beginning through the ChicaGo Explorers Program is no small thing. As one of the nation’s largest park districts, they are making an important statement that we can go beyond basketball and yoga in our parks. As part of the program, the Park District has launched a gear library, creatively housed in a shipping container on Northerly Island, which contains gear that will be used by these trainees to get youth outdoors. Gear is one of the main obstacles keeping many youth from camping. This Gear Library will provide high quality apparel, sleeping bags, tents, etc, that will enable youth to camp under that Milky Way – most of them, for the first time.
Outdoors Empowered Network is thrilled to have supported the Chicago Park District in launching this new program!