Stepping out the door: A profile of O.R.C.

Magdalenda Waz

(Photo by Tara Atkinson)

In 1998, when most of us were anywhere between 6 and 10 years old, the Outdoor Recreation Club members moved for the first time into the house on the corner of Meade and what was then still John St. And they haven’t left since. It’s a testament to how large and popular the organization has become since its founding in 1988.

The current president, Eric Salter, provided a number of enthusiastic responses to questions in an interview that shed some light on how ORC has grown and its relative health as an organization. One of the main elements of success Salter pointed to was that “anyone can lead a trip, so with our growing numbers we’re having even more diverse trip ideas come up.” It’s a hands-on approach that attracts members who now have the resources to plan and organize fairly large trips.

This year, students had been able to travel to the Florida Keys for kayaking, Utah for backpaking and Arkansas for canoeing. These far-flung places were perfect getaways from the cold of a Wisconsin March. Closer to home, ORC organized weekly skiing trips to Granite Peak during winter term. Skiing was completely free, and the trip was very popular within the Lawrence community.

All of these trips are great, but getting involved can prove intimidating for some because there are no weekly meetings. Once a term, there’s a large meeting during which “the ORC board tell[s] the club members what trips and activities the board has planned for the term. It is also an occasion for club members to announce their own trip ideas. After this meeting, we rely on the ORC mailing list to spread information about upcoming trips and activities,” Salter says.

This is part of the reason that some students do not get involved, worrying that if they miss the meeting for the term, they’ll have trouble being able to attend the trips and being able to make friends. Salter offers encouraging words for those who are worried about this: “I’d just like to say that absolutely anyone is welcome to come on an ORC trip… [All] you need to go on one of our trips is a willingness to have fun and get dirty outside. Also, if you miss the group meeting for the term, don’t worry! The ORC mailing list is a phenomenal resource that has tons of information about upcoming trips and activities. Anyone interested can shoot me an email and I’ll put them on the list.”

Being open to new membership and being able to incorporate new members into the group on trips is what has made ORC one of the largest outdoors clubs in the ACM. On trips, students are successfully able to break out of the Lawrence Bubble and escape to a more exciting world, if only for the weekend.

For next year, Salter anticipates trips to climbing gyms due to ORC’s absorption of Lawrence’s climbing club, as well trips that involve sailing after ORC’s acquisition of sailing club equipment. The house, too, will still be there with a patched-up hole in the floor and a napping student in the hammock outside.