In the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organizations have implemented many changes in order to keep operating. The Environmental Adventure Center at UW-Eau Claire is no different in this matter.
Every semester, the EAC plans several trips to off-campus locations to experience the outdoors, whether that’s through rock climbing, a hike or other experiences. With a bit of strategic planning, EAC has managed to keep their trips for this semester.
“They’re going to be formatted a little bit differently than in years past,” Julia Wopat, a fourth-year kinesiology student and trip leader, said. “We’re just going to be doing day trips.”
Wopat said the trip leaders were able to try out the day trips during freshman connection and said they turned out amazing.
The EAC trips normally go overnight and are on the weekend, Wopat said. Because of this, the trips this semester are not as far from UW-Eau Claire as they were before.
There are seven trips planned for the semester, taking place in various locations across Wisconsin and Minnesota. Of these trips, three are for rock climbing, two are hiking trails, one is a canoe trip and one has fat-tire biking.
Trips will mostly start early on Saturdays, returning groups to campus in the late afternoon.
“The trips are actually really full,” Austin Perkins, a fifth-year religious studies student and EAC manager, said. “Unfortunately, COVID protocol means we just can’t fit as many people in the cars.”
Due to the pandemic, the amount of students able to go on a trip is now reduced to six students, who will be accompanied by two trip leaders. Traveling to the trip locations will also be different.
“We will be taking two suburbans,” Wopat said. “We’re limiting it to three participants and one trip leader per suburban, which is why our trips are a bit smaller.”
According to Perkins, EAC used to run trips with roughly 13-15 people. Most of the trips are full at this point, but there are still a few open.
When choosing the locations, some trips that were common in the past had to be dropped due to their long distance from campus, Perkins said. Places like the north shore of Lake Superior have extra drive time that wouldn’t make sense with a day trip.
According to Perkins, EAC was given the go-ahead to run overnight trips as long as they could safely social distance. However, it came down to a lack of tents for every student on the trip that cemented the decision to stick to day trips.
“We couldn’t have people sharing tents, which logistically would not make sense to have one person per tent,” Perkins said. “So that’s when we decided to go on day trips. It’s a new challenge, but it’s working out well for us.”
In addition to the socially distanced trips, the EAC is also practicing safe COVID-19 protocols with their equipment.
“For the most part, we just quarantine the equipment,” Perkins said. “For the equipment we do need to use before that quarantine period, we do have cleaning protocols for that.”
While on the trips, the participants abide by social distancing rules and wear masks. The exception is that while on the rock climbing trips, students may take off their masks as they are actually climbing and away from people.
Students can register for a trip at https://www.uwec.edu/recreation/.
Spierings can be reached at [email protected].