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Outdoor recreation abounds in Western North Carolina with plenty of camping, hiking, fishing, and paddling adventure to be had within the Asheville area. While the mountains and rivers call, taking the first leap into the great outdoors can often be an intimidating challenge for beginners.
In an effort to create inviting new experiences for those new to outdoor recreation, Buncombe County Recreation Services developed, “Buncombe Outdoors Adventure Club”, to facilitate first-time and entry-level outdoor programs and outings. Buncombe Outdoors is an evolving concept that first hatched during late spring; Buncombe County Recreation Services has held a series of fishing derbies, guided hikes, and a “backyard” campout under the brand since it emerged.
The events hosted under the Buncombe Outdoors brand are structured so no participant gets left behind and everyone has fun while building confidence and further interest in outdoor recreation. The focus is to provide a low cost of entry and to reduce barriers to participation. For the most part, participants need only to register and show up, in many cases the program can provide loaner gear to those who are not yet invested in a particular activity.
Buncombe Outdoors tagged onto the National Wildlife Federation’s “Great American Campout” to provide a first time camping experience in June. The event allowed campers the rare opportunity to camp out at Lake Julian in a format tailored around busy lifestyles. Laura Trentman founder of Appalachia Camping Co., a service that provides full camp setup and teardown for individuals who struggle with camping gear, time, or experience, came help out with the campout. Trentman noted of the event, “There is so much to explore in WNC. Camping for first-timers can be intimidating at first. 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.” The partnership between Buncombe Outdoors and Appalachia Camping Co. was a natural fit given a shared desire to increase the accessibility of outdoor experiences. Trentman says of her venture, “That's the idea behind Appalachia Camping Co. No tent? No problem! We got you covered.”
As Buncombe Outdoors develops, the intent is to develop strong partnerships with the local outdoor industry to offer incentives for participating. Diamond Brand Outdoors has been a sponsoring partner of Buncombe County Recreation Services over the past two years and offers 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 boat models sold by Diamond Brand. “We’re hoping that those involved with the outdoor industry will understand the value of engaging with the participants of Buncombe Outdoors,” says Recreation Manager Josh O’Conner, “It’s really a great way to develop a new customer segment by supporting their fledgling interest in outdoor recreation.”
Buncombe Outdoors will continue to grow as a program that offers specific events as well as incentives that encourage residents of all ages to venture out into the outdoors on their own. During the month of July, the program is running a social media photo contest which will allow visitors to compete for a camping package from Appalachia Camping Company. Participants can enter one time each day by posting a picture of themselves at a Buncombe County Park (see buncombeparks.org for a list of parks) and tagging the post with the hashtag #buncombeoutdoors or #buncombecountyoutdoors. A winner will be selected at random at the end of the month.
For additional information on Buncombe Outdoors events, check buncomberecreation.org or "like" Buncombe County Recreation Services on Facebook (facebook.com/buncomberecreation/). Businesses interested in developing partnerships with the program should contact Josh O’Conner, Buncombe County Recreation Services Manager at 828.250.6703 or email@example.com.