GVSU offers students free outdoor activities

GVL / Courtesy - Joe Bitely
Outdoor Adventure Center

GVL / Courtesy – Joe Bitely Outdoor Adventure Center

Rachel Huck

With the winter semester in full swing, busy students may struggle to find time for leisure activities outside of classes. However, Grand Valley State University offers an array of free on-campus activities for students to enjoy.

For those in need of stress relief, students have year-round access to the GVSU Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), located on the Allendale Campus.

“At the very least, I hope the students take advantage of the OAC to escape the stress of classes,” said Joe Bitely, manager of the OAC. “Unplugging from technology and enjoying some fresh air for a while can do a lot to improve mental health.”

Students, faculty and staff are provided free access to the Climbing Center, where full rock climbing equipment is provided. The Bike Shop is another available option, where students are welcome to use provided tools and expertise to service their bikes.

“In encouraging people to play outdoors, we hope that we’re also fostering an appreciation for our natural resources and how important they are,” Bitely said.

To alleviate overcrowding issues, the center hopes to expand the climbing wall.

In addition, the center is working toward recognition of achieving the bronze status as a bicycle friendly university from the League of American Bicyclists, an esteemed title.

Finally, the center is striving to bring kayaks to their rental inventory, as well as develop a variety of water-based programs and services.

“I believe the opportunity to cultivate or continue a passion for a lifelong activity and the relationships that can be developed has a significant impact on the students,” Bitely said. “An impact that can last long after they have graduated.”

To provide students with additional activities, the center offers rental equipment such as snowshoes, hammocks, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and more.

“If you have any bike issues, from flat tires to a complete overhaul, our staff and volunteers are there to help you problem-solve while putting the tools in your hands,” said Ben Stark, coordinator of the Bike Shop. “The rental bike program is by far what keeps us the most busy, though. We maintain a fleet of nearly 100 bikes currently, and provide maintenance and ongoing service needs to our renters.”

The OAC has a variety of upcoming events in the works. On Feb. 6, an ice-climbing clinic will be held, in addition to an after-hours climbing party on Feb. 26.

“We also just started a new ongoing event at the Climbing Center, we have dubbed the Mile High Club,” Bitely said. “Participants are challenged to climb the equivalent vertical footage of one mile on our rock wall in a single semester; which is 5,280 feet, or 264 laps to the top.”

This summer, the OAC will take over the Ravine Center, which will become a physical Outdoor Adventure Center. This location will become the new headquarters of the OAC, and coordinators are hopeful that the move will further encourage new student involvement at the center.