Outbackers convert unused woods into outdoor classroom camping area

Release Date: 3/17/2010

Clarksville, Ark. --- What happens if you go camping for the first time and it turns out you hate it?

What if you’re like the guy in the song “The Outdoor Type” by the Lemonheads:

“Always had a roof above me
Always paid the rent
But I've never set foot inside a tent
Can't build a fire to save my life
I lied about being the outdoor type”

Under normal circumstances, you’d probably just have to suffer the ticks and brambles and no shower and bumpy ground and never do it again.

Ozarks students, however, will soon be able to have their cake and eat it too, thanks to the hard work of the Ozarks Outback club.

Ozarks Outback – aka the Outbackers – is an outdoor club. As its mission statement says, it “exposes our students to the ultimate recreational environment nestled between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. Student instructors lead outings such as canoeing, rock climbing, backpacking, caving, mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking.”

Clearing brush at the new campsite.

Outbackers President Kirk Ross hard at work.

And thanks to a good idea from the club’s staff advisor, Director of Student Activities Brian Hull, the Outbackers are clearing camping areas in the wooded property owned by the university on the north side of the athletic fields, areas which can serve the entire campus in multiple ways.

“When I took over as the Outbacker’s advisor two or three years ago, I started thinking about an outdoor adventure course, “says Hull. “I sort of developed a short term and long term plan. We approached the administration about utilizing that property, which isn’t being used for anything right now. We have cleared out areas for two camp sites and an outdoor classroom. It is a place where inexperienced campers can get comfortable with the outdoors, but it’s also five minutes from their dorms. Best of both worlds.”

Hull says he hopes the long term plan – an outdoor training and leadership course, with both low and high level ropes courses – will come to fruition at some point. “We’ve also cleared a trail to a pond on the further edge of the wooded area,” he says. “We can hopefully incorporate the pond into the project at some point.”

So far volunteers have met twice to clean the area, acquiring community service hours and a free pizza lunch in the process. Hull says the cleanups will continue on into the summer.

And because of their efforts, students will be able to safely enjoy the outdoors while avoiding the fate of the narrator in the Lemonheads song:

“Never learned to swim can't grow a beard or even fight
I lied about being the outdoor type”

The Outbackers cleanup crew.

Outdoor types – Members and friends of Ozarks Outback pause amid their labors. (Left to right): Michael Woods, Kyle Hunnicutt, Natalie Roden, Tate Ramirez, Brent Sanders, Isaac Doss, and Colin Davies. (Not pictured: Andrew Herbert, Lauren Ray, and Kirk Ross.) They are clearing areas on university property for use in simulated camping and outdoor classroom exercises.