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Adventure WV offers WVU community members and others many ways to pursue purpose outdoors

Photograph of a zip line through the woods and a person riding down.

The WVU Outdoor Education Center is a multipurpose facility dedicated to providing educational and aerial adventure activities, including the University’s Zip Line Canopy Tour. (WVU Photo)

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Tapping into the landscape of the Mountain State, the West Virginia University Outdoor Education Center — run by Adventure WV — provides members of the University and surrounding communities opportunities to learn more about themselves and others by taking on challenges in nature.

Rachel Lasky, a junior forensic biology major from Ashburn, Virginia, found a sense of belonging when she turned to the outdoors.

“When I first started at WVU, I didn’t really know who I was in college or what I really wanted to be known for,” Lasky said. That was before she went to work two years ago at the OEC, located 10 miles east of the Morgantown Campus in the WVU Research Forest.

“Meeting everyone at the OEC and hearing all the different stories from those who were older than me really brought to my mind that it was OK that I didn’t know everything and that I wasn’t supposed to,” she said. “It has opened so many opportunities to meet people that I never would have even thought about before and to do things that I didn't know I would be able to do. It has also given me some lifelong friends.”

The OEC is a multipurpose facility dedicated to providing educational and aerial adventure activities, including the WVU Zip Line Canopy Tour, WVU Challenge Course and the Adventure Basecamp Overnight Facility.

“Our low and high ropes options are comparable to many universities across the country, but what makes us unique is that we are the only university to run a full Zip Line Canopy Tour,” said Chad Baker, assistant director of Adventure WV. “Our overnight sleeping yurts and location also set us apart since we are in the middle of the 7,500-acre University Research Forest.”

April marks the start of the new OEC season which typically runs through the end of October.

All activities are open to WVU faculty, staff, students and student organizations. OEC staff work to customize experiences to help address specific group goals, like improved communications, while providing new experiences.

Parts of the OEC are also available to the public when reservations are booked through the Center’s website.

“We bring a number of different groups up to the OEC — University groups, public groups, school groups, and we do purposeful programming,” Baker said. “Whether that’s leadership training, general team building or having a shared experience, that’s where we put our focus.”

Students who staff the OEC, like Lasky, build their communication and critical thinking skills.

“We’ve seen a lot of students who have had a lot of growth after they work for us because the job is very people-focused,” Baker said. “You have to be able to talk in front of people and you have to be able to handle some stressful environments at times. You’re going to get a lot of transferable skills, regardless of your major.”

Jeff Devlin, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering dual major from Bryan, Ohio, has worked for Adventure WV for more than two years. While at the OEC, he’s helped many move out of their comfort zones, something he’s struggled with in the past.

“I think the thing I have gotten out of working at the OEC is a real feeling of fulfillment in helping people overcome their fears,” Devlin said. “A lot of people come to participate in these high ropes elements and realize they might not be super comfortable dangling from a harness 30-plus feet in the air. I know when I started working here, I was terrified of heights, but the constant exposure of being up at height every day over the summer helped me to get more comfortable and start to enjoy it.”

Participants at the OEC range in age, including grade school students who come in large groups throughout the summer during camps.

It is an opportunity for younger students to learn life skills designed for their specific age group, such as tag and other movement games for elementary students. If they meet the height and weight requirements, some are also able to do the high and low rope adventures at the Challenge Course Facility.

“I love working with grade school kids because the groups are always high energy and willing to play a lot of games,” Devlin said. “I also enjoy the challenge aspect of younger participants coming to the course because many have not had experience at height before and it feels really fulfilling to help coach them through a tough section of climbing on the Alpine Tower or help calm their nerves if they get frightened.”

Lasky recalled the moment a timid elementary student was hesitant to participate on the Canopy Tour but went through with it and ended with a smile on his face.

“It is a wonder to see what people are capable of at all of the different age groups,” she said. “For the most part, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you dont want to look back on this day in the future and be disappointed in yourself that you didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity. Who knows? You may just find something that you really enjoy or something that you don’t, but at least you can say that you tried it.”

Adventure WV is marking its 20th year serving the University and surrounding communities by offering all kinds of ways to go exploring.

Find more information about the Outdoor Education Center.

In downtown Morgantown, Adventure WV also runs Morgantown Adventure Outfitters in collaboration with the city, offering kayak and bicycle rentals and guided programs through the Mon River Trail out of its Walnut Street location that is open to the public. Morgantown Adventure Outfitters is also opening for the season in April.

“Overall, our goal is to help people connect with one another in a purposeful way by having fun,” Baker said.



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