Eco-adventure fun

Spinnaker

Saturday morning – intense boredom, and you haven’t a clue how to fix it. You don’t have the gas money to drive anywhere off campus. You spent Friday night at the game room. The library is too quiet. It’s a no-go for the Arena. Your bathing suit and gym clothes are in the wash.

Think a little harder; fun is right across the street. Indeed, those woods you drive by everyday hold more than just trees.

The Eco-Adventure Program’s success rose dramatically in spring 2008, earning triple the amount of interest in one semester as it had in the whole 2007 school year, Chief Ranger Ayolane Halusky said.

“People want to get out [in the wilderness],” he said. “We’re growing faster than we can ask for.”

With funds from Student Government, miles of trails and acres of land, the opportunities the Eco-Adventure Program has to offer are vast, ranging from renting gear to environmental excursions.

The program’s aim is to help students become as involved with nature as they can, Halusky said.

Gear is rented out on a first come first serve basis. Students can borrow tents, sleeping bags, stoves, coolers, canoes, kayaks and backpacks.

And if they want a more guided experience, workshops and trips are offered each fall and spring semester.

“Anything we do on campus like the workshops is free, but any trip is at least $10,” Halusky said. “If you did any of these trips … in a normal market, it would be about $60 to $80, [and] that’s in the mid to low range. So $10 is a steal.”

This semester, the plans include three separate night hikes, a paddle on Durban Creek, scuba diving certification classes, an evening kayak trip through the Amelia Island area and workshops. A white water rafting trip is also in the works for the spring semester.

If those events aren’t interesting enough, the Eco-Adventure Program welcomes suggestions that can lead to customized workshops for students, Halusky said.

“Anything that has to do with learning in the wilderness, we’re totally willing to create and do these workshops,” Halusky said. “As long as you give me a couple months notice, I’m totally willing to sit down with [you] and design … a workshop.”

A vegetarian group once came to Halusky seeking a program that would teach them about edible plants, he said.

“I have some knowledge [about it], but I also have some close friends of mine who are park managers around here,” Halusky said. “So, we got together and did a workshop for them. It was awesome.”

For those city students who don’t know whether they’d be interested in the programs available, Halusky’s advice points them to the recently initiated Dead Fall Primitive Skills Club.

“We hear the Mother Goose rhymes when we’re growing up: the forest is a scary place,” Halusky said. “And it’s really not if you understand it.”

Understanding nature and what it has to offer society is essentially what the Dead Fall Primitive Skills Club is about, said President Lynsie Dutton, senior anthropology major.

“Most people now-a-days – if they were cut off from the world – they would die,” Dutton said. “If the electricity went out or something big happened, a lot of people would not know how to care for themselves without the rest of society’s help.”

Dead Fall’s plans include practicing skills like making knots, cordage, rope, moccasins, bows and arrows, arrowheads, baskets and stone blades.

It will also practice setting a trap and creating fires without matches.

These fire skills will be taught in a workshop the group wishes to host for the student body, Dutton said.

“[When you make a dead-fall trap], the trap is literally opening a space to attract nourishment,” Halusky said. “[So, you are] opening a space to nature to learn from it and to experience it.”

Dutton’s involvement in the program has taught her a lot about UNF’s wilderness and nature in general, she said.

“It’s dirty. It can be a little vulgar sometimes, a little scary. It can be dangerous, but if you know what you’re doing, then it’s a lot of fun,” Dutton said.

The Future

The growth has yet to reach its peak, and Halusky is beginning to view glimpses of what will be the future for the Eco-Adventure Program, he said.

“There’s a potential for a rock climbing [wall and]…a ropes course,” Halusky said. “It eventually will happen, but ‘when’ is the good question.”

The UNF golf course has first priority at the moment, as it is currently in the process of becoming Audubon certified, Halusky said.

“It’s more than just a golf course,” Halusky said. “The golf course has to be created for the Audubon, so it has to have a draining system. So, when we water the lawns…all the water is collected into a reservoir. You have high nutrients and high fertilizers…collected and reused instead of just drained off.”

Halusky and the Eco-Adventure employees also must only use approved chemicals and fertilizers, so as to cause less damage to the ecosystems around the course.

The area needs the dry lands next to it because the water drains into the wetlands, which requires the drainage to thrive, Halusky said.

“Currently, the wetlands are preserved,” Halusky said. The dry lands around the wetlands necessarily aren’t.”

“To preserve that area would be next on the list.”

Further respect of the area and always being knowledgeable is key, Halusky said.

“If you have a surveyor attitude [in nature], everything is as beautiful as the first time you’ve ever seen it,” Halusky said. “And I’m forever learning.”

NO-NO’s
The following are rules set by the Eco Adventure Club meant to protect the environment, as well as your safety. Some violations may result in a trespassing charge.

• Dogs
• Bikes
• Motor vehicles
• Horses
• Plant/Animal collections or harassment
• Weapons
• Camping
• Swimming
• Diving
• Hunting
• Trapping
• Gasoline powered motorboats
• Non catch and release fishing
• Fishing without a license
• Live Bait
• Bonfires
• Being on the trails after dark
• Leaving trash or fishing line in nature
• Boating without life vests

FALL SEMESTER EVENTS
Scuba Diving Certification
• $260
• Sept. 25-28 and Oct. 23-26
“Scuba diving places around here don’t tell you [about the hidden rental fees]. All of a sudden, it’s $400. This is all included – rental of gear and everything is $260. It’s the best deal I’ve ever heard of,” Halusky said.

Kayak Amelia
• $40
• Sept. 26
“[We are] providing guides and everything like that,” Halusky said. “We start off at dusk, and when we end the paddle it’s nighttime. It’s going to be pretty fun.”

Durban Creek Paddle
• $10
• Nov. 8
“You get to see some beautiful swampy areas, places [in Jacksonville] that people don’t normally see. But, it might be a challenging one this time… After the hurricane, there might be fallen [branches in the way],” Halusky said.

Night Hikes
• Free
• 6-8 p.m., subject to change
• Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5
“It’s an opportunity to understand who lives out there and to lower some of our fear of the wilderness,” Halusky said. “It’s not just walking around the trails at night. There are things that we do to make it a lot of fun. You’ll have to come and find out.”
Compiled by Rebecca McKinnon.

E-mail Rebecca McKinnon at [email protected]