PA WILDS OUTDOOR INDUSTRY EXPLORATION SERIES:
PLANNING A RIVER EXPEDITION
Our Planning a River Expedition series is geared toward freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in working in the region’s growing outdoor recreation industry, those interested in professional kayak instruction, or those interested in learning more about local history, geography, health and safety, and ecosystems through a hands-on experience preparing for a kayaking trip on one of our five navigable local waterways in Warren County.
What is the time commitment for this course?
This series consists of a mixture of classroom and on-water training sessions that last two hours each, over four weeks. All participants will be responsible for providing their own transportation to/from each session. Sessions are split between two locations: AO Outdoors Store (430 Pennsylvania Avenue West, Warren); and the Warren County YMCA (212 Lexington Ave, Warren).
What can you expect from our instructors?
This course is open to a maximum of six participants, offering a low instructor/student ratio for a better learning environment. Our two instructors (Piper VanOrd and Sue Neilson) are American Canoe Association (ACA) Level I and II Kayak Instructor and Leave No Trace Master Educator certified. Participants can expect a relaxed, professional atmosphere that encourages questions and open conversation, while covering a lot of ground over its duration.
What topics will be discussed during this course?
Each class will begin with a 10-minute interactive discussion about an industry topic before the day’s course-work begins. Topics will include: Challenges to operating an outfitter/guide business; Age, skills, certifications and other requirements for getting hired at an outfitting/guide operation; Pay and perks of working in the industry; How the outfitter reaches customers; Importance of Stewardship/real life ways we engage in this; Ways we impress the importance of safety on customers; And how our company passes foot traffic to other businesses.
After opening discussion we'll dig in to our session topic. We've broken down each below. Click on a photo for a more detailed understanding of what we'll cover.
Do you need to have kayaking experience to sign up?
You do not need prior experience to sign up, but you must bring a willingness to learn. This series is geared toward freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in working in the region’s growing outdoor recreation industry, or those interested in learning more about local history, geography, health and safety, and ecosystems through a hands-on experience preparing for a kayaking trip on one of our five navigable local waterways in Warren County.
What equipment are you responsible for providing?
We provide all equipment needed for the course.
What else should you bring?
During our on-water training days, it's best practice to learn as if you were outside kayaking. With this in mind we ask that participants wear what they would on the river. (For example, I don't kayak in a swimsuit, but a pair of shorts and tank top with a swimsuit underneath.) Learning strokes and maneuvers, and eventually wet exiting is best practiced in clothing you'll actually be out there in. Please remember to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
During our classroom training days, feel free to bring a drink and snacks if needed. Each participant will be provided a small notebook and pen for taking notes.
What are the course dates and times?
Saturday, March 23: Classroom training: Our Watershed, Equipment: Outfitting + Safety, 2-4pm @ AO
Sunday March 24: YMCA Pool session 1-3pm
Wednesday, March 27: Classroom training: DNA of a River, 6-8pm @ AO
Sunday March 31: YMCA Pool session 1-3pm
Wednesday, April 3: Classroom training: Classroom training: History of Our Local Waterways, Leave No Trace + Stewardship, 6-8pm @ AO
Sunday, April 7: Final YMCA Pool session 1-3pm
Wednesday, April 10: Final Classroom training: Planning an Expedition, Awards 6-8pm @ AO
** Kinzua Dam Tour by USACE date TBD **
What is the cost of this course?
This course is free to all participants. It is funded by generous corporate donations made possible through the Department of Community and Economic Development Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Learn more about the Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) state-approved Educational Improvement Organization (EIO) program offerings here.
How do you register for a spot?
We'll have parent/guardian liability waivers that will need signed prior to starting the course, but the bulk of registration (and locking in a spot) can be accomplished online by clicking the button below and filling out the form. Have a question? Please email Piper at email@example.com.
What is the PA Wilds Outdoor Industry Exploration Series?
The outdoor recreation economy is an $887 billion annual industry in the United States, accounting for more than 7.6 million jobs in fields that include everything from guide and outfitting services to developing and manufacturing outdoor products such as kayaks, backpacks, tents and cook stoves. Public lands are at the heart of the outdoor recreation economy. For the last 15 years, local partners from the public and private sectors have been working to grow this sector of the economy in the Pennsylvania Wilds. The region is uniquely positioned to do this as it is home to more than 2 million acres of public land – more than Yellowstone National Park -- and 16,000 miles of waterways.
Outfitters and guides are a linchpin businesses in this economic development effort. They help visitors safely access and experience the region’s biggest draw -- its public lands and waterways -- often passing their foot traffic to other businesses such as restaurants, lodges and retail stores, which helps these businesses grow and rural communities thrive.
Just as in the other vibrant niche industries, not just anyone can start or buy and operate a successful outfitting business. Not only are these lifestyle businesses they are also highly technical, requiring a deep understanding of the activities and gear at hand, the landscape on which these things are operated and the customer service and risk assessments that go with each.
The PA Wilds Outdoor Industry Exploration Series helps support and grow the outfitter and guide sector in the Pennsylvania Wilds by building awareness for the industry among the next generation, who may want to work at, start or one day purchase and operate such a business. At the very least, students will get a better understanding for the unique role such businesses play in their communities, the importance of safety and preparation on wilderness trips, and stewardship of the natural resources utilized.
Pictures from last years course: