Teens reconnect with nature through Adventure Crew

Adventure Crew’s mission is to get teens outdoors.

The nonprofit is in school districts around the region to connect city teens to nature through outdoor adventures.

The nonprofit hosts monthly outdoor events, like hiking, kayaking, and biking, from September through May to approximately 75 to 100 students.

Since starting in 2015, they have expanded into 25 urban schools, including Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow, Holmes High School, and Scott High School. 

The organization was founded by a Cincinnati Public School teacher who wanted to connect students who lived in the city to the outdoors that didn’t have access to those opportunities.

“We are trying to target students who have less access. We also find that the demographics of our program are those that are underrepresented in the outdoors,” said Director of Support and Engagement for Adventure Crew Miriam Wise. “We serve a high percentage of students of color and then students that come from low socio-economic backgrounds.” 

Adventure Crew covers all costs, transportation, and food for students in their programs.

“There’s also no threshold for qualification. We serve schools where there are students who may have gone skiing with their family, or they’ve gone to a national park out west,” Wise said. “They are just as welcome as a peer who’s never been on the Loveland bike trail to come out and enjoy an outing with Adventure Crew. Our tagline is ‘adventure for all,’ and that means we really want to see everyone enjoying the outdoors.”

The excursions last about six hours, helping students to disconnect from social media.

“When you’re biking or kayaking or rock climbing, it’s harder to be scrolling on social media, so they get to disconnect a little from technology and reconnect with each other,” Wise said.

The more students participate, the bigger adventures they get to go on. These students are called the “core crew.” They qualify for overnight and out-of-town experiences.

Wise said their most recent group of core crew members went paddling in Canada.

“We want to create that pathway so kids who started seventh or eighth grade and are just literally dipping their toe in the water with something like paddling can see themselves in five years getting to go on an overnight trip out of the country to paddle in Canada for five days,” Wise said.

Adventure Crew also covers the overnight trip costs. Wise said they see this as a rewarding opportunity for students participating who are essentially becoming leaders in the program.

The largest community event and fundraiser that supports Adventure Crew is Paddlefest.

Paddlefest has been in the region for 21 years, and Adventure Crew has held the event since taking over in 2016.

Paddlefest is a nine-mile kayaking trip on the Ohio River and has grown to roughly 2,000 paddlers from about 23 states.

Paddlers on the Ohio River during Paddlefest.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, paddle routes will begin at Schmidt Recreation Complex, 2944 Humbert Ave. in Cincinnati, at 7 a.m. Kayak launching will continue until 8:30 a.m.

Alongside the nine-mile trip, Adventure Crew added a 4.5-mile “Paddlefest MINI” trip last year to include more people in the event.

The Paddlefest MINI finishes at the Public Landing in downtown Cincinnati, and the nine-mile paddle continues to Gilday Recreation Complex, 3540 Southside Ave. in Cincinnati.

About 15 students in Adventure Crew programs will participate in the Paddlefest MINI trip this year.

Adventure Crew adjusted the paddle route when they took over to allow paddlers to go through Downtown Cincinnati and explore Mill Creek, then continue to the West Side. Wise said this route helps explore how commerce works on the river.

“Kind of seeing all aspects of the river, more industrialized, more working parts of the river which is the most critical natural resource in our community,” Wise said. “So, seeing how the river functions for both recreation and it being beautiful, but also how it works for commerce.”

Participants can use their own kayaks or rent one during registration while supplies last.

The portions of the river used for the event will be closed to commercial and motorized traffic for safety purposes. There will also be police officers and members of the fire department monitoring the water.

The nine-mile trip will end with a post-paddle festival with music by The Sunburners, food trucks, and beer from MadTree. The festival ends at 2 p.m.

Registration for the nine-mile paddle is $65 for adults; $25 for youth (17 and under); the 4.5-mile paddle is $60 for adults; $20 for youth. Prices go up on August 1. Full pricing details are available on the Paddlefest website.

An event pre-party will be held on Friday, Aug. 5. This pre-party helps to alleviate some of the onsite registration and kayak drop-off on Saturday morning. 

The Outdoors for All Expo is free and open to the public. It will feature exhibits and hands-on demos from local parks, outdoor outfitters, adventure experts, and environmentally minded organizations.

The event will have live music by The Tillers, Tracy Walker, and Gabbard & Co. Local beer from MadTree Brewing, food trucks, and a raffle for outdoor prizes.

The pre-party is held at Schmidt Recreation Complex, the site of Saturday’s Paddlefest launch, and runs from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. More details are available on the event website.