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Mentors and outdoor skills

Studies reveal that parents do not participate in outdoor recreation, in most cases their children will not. Any child living in the Adirondacks without the opportunity to acquire the required knowledge and tools to effectively enjoy the woods and waters of the park is at a severe disadvantage. Without adequate skills, local children are deprived of the treasures and pleasures of the wilderness.

Without the ability to access their local environment, today's youth will be unable to pursue and enjoy a host of positive recreational outlets. If this is the case, they will almost certainly pursue the usual negative recreational outlets of sex, drugs and alcohol.

The late Rachael Carson, author and environmental educator, once expressed the need for mentoring when she explained, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."

Numerous studies have revealed that Carson had the right idea. Parents and family are indeed the number one factor in getting children involved in outdoor activities. In a recent national survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, nearly 50 percent of active outdoor enthusiasts indicated it was a family member that sparked their interest. The second most influential factor for participation is friends, with 31 percent revealing that friends got them started.

Outdoor activity is great for families. Fully 67 percent of respondents to a recent poll reported "Dad" took them on their first fishing trip and 79 percent said that outdoor activities strengthen family relationships. Starting young is key to life long involvement. Over 90 percent of current participants started an outdoor activity between the ages of 5 and 18 years old.

Most participants started young and were heavily influenced by sharing the experience with parents or friends. For them, participation in outdoor activities is viewed as an ingrained behavior. However, 55 percent of those surveyed said they would like to have their children experience more frequent outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing or canoeing.

Next week, I will report on a number of communities that have developed outdoor programs for local youth.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net

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