How Liberty’s Outdoor Recreation department is finding creative ways to keep students active while practicing social distancing

Liberty’s Outdoor Recreation department is finding creative ways to keep students active while practicing social distancing whether in Lynchburg or around the country.

“We’ve got a lot of adventure right in our backyard,” said Michael Ellsworth, director of outdoor recreation at Liberty. “From the hiking trails to our athletic areas to the James River, there is a lot going on here.”

When COVID-19 struck over spring break, resulting in mandated social distancing guidelines, remote learning and few students on campus, the Outdoor Rec department knew it had to change to meet the new needs of those who had returned, as well as people who had stayed home.

“We have been forced to look for ways to make meaningful opportunities,” Ellsworth said. “We want to see people able to do things by themselves.”

As one way to help get students outdoors, Outdoor Rec set up a scavenger hunt on the trail system on Candlers Mountain. They put out weekly clues so students could go out themselves or in small groups to find medallions. The scavenger hunt offered prizes like T-shirts, stickers and coffee mugs.

“It helps keep people social distancing and still get active and to participate without actually having to be somewhere at a certain time with other people,” Ellsworth said.

Besides the scavenger hunt, the department offered DIY videos for students to do things at home. Ellsworth said one video is about fly fishing while another shows how to make healthy granola bars. 

Some upcoming videos are camping videos with tips and tricks about living in the outdoors.

“It’s part of our mission to help people have great experiences both physically and spiritually,” Ellsworth said. “We hope that making some experiences available during this time can help students get outside and have some fun.”

Outdoor Recreation offers multiple trips for students to go on. Some trips are more advanced, like the whitewater rafting or the fly fishing trips that took place over spring break. Others, like canoeing on the James River nearby, are ideal for beginners.

One of the most popular outdoor places for students is Camp Hydaway. Located only a few minutes from campus, the camp boasts a lake, easy hiking access and activities like hammocking, ziplining, kayaking and fishing. All activities are open to Liberty students and staff and not the Lynchburg public until further state restrictions are lifted. 

“No matter what you are interested in, we have an opportunity for everyone,” Ellsworth said. “Hydaway makes it really easy for people to get outside.”

Robert Locklear is a News reporter. Follow him on Twitter @RobertELocklea1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *