How Can Adventure Treks Operate in 2020 When Other Programs Chose to Close?

John Dockendorf18 Jun, 2020
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teenagers holding paddles in red canoes on lake

Our carefully made plans for summer 2020, like all other programs have experienced, were thrown out the window. But we are not ones to easily give up! More important than painstakingly detailed logistics, we want to remain true to our mission: to run the safest, most exciting, and most substantive outdoor adventure programs for teenagers through our personal attention to every student, our caring and our competence.

In looking for ways to operate during COVID while adhering to our mission, we revisited our goals:

  1. Get kids excited about the outdoors
  2. Build strong friendships
  3. Immerse teenagers in close communities
  4. Provide great role models
  5. Build a lifetime love of the outdoors
  6. And do it all safely

teenagers sitting on rock face in mountains with view

When the realities of COVID-19 forced us abandon our original plans, we immediately dove in to completely rework summer 2020, figuring out how to reach our goals while meeting North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and American Camp Association standards. So here’s how we’re doing it!

  • We reduced our overall program size from 475 students to 160 students, creating a more manageable group size under new NC state constraints.
  • Our ratio of students to staff has been lowered to 3.2:1, meaning an extra instructor can isolate with a potentially infected student and maintain our typical 4:1.
  • The location of our Henderson County base camp is 10 minutes away from an excellent regional hospital (Pardee Hospital), which has seen very few cases of COVID.
  • The current Henderson County positive testing rate remains below 0.1 percent, with only 10 percent of positive cases aged 0–19 (and no deaths under 40).
  • We’re in close proximity to our medical director, Dr. Andrew Morris, who can make “camp” calls as needed.
  • We have our own health and quarantine center at our base camp, should anyone develop COVID-like symptoms and need to be isolated from their group.

teenage girl in red life vest jumping off rock into river

  • We administered PCR nasal swab tests to our directors and instructors, who will stay in a two-week quarantine before our students arrive.
  • We arranged for all students to order tests to reduce the risk that someone could arrive asymptomatically infected.
  • We have exclusive access to four private campgrounds to reduce the chance of interacting with the general public.
  • We’ve stockpiled canoes, mountain bikes, and other outdoor gear (either owned by us or leased from other camps) so that we can oversee proper cleaning and disinfecting of equipment.
  • We’ve hired only one third-party outfitter, Nantahala Outdoor Center, with whom we have a close, long-term relationship and who are working incredibly hard to mitigate the risk of infection for their guests.
  • We have intimate knowledge of the local state parks, national forests, and other wilderness areas in western NC. Not only do we live and recreate here, but we also operate programs with about a dozen schools and about 1,000 students every fall season.

We are incredibly excited for the summer ahead. We know the Blue Ridge Mountains are not as dramatic as those of the western US, but they still offer incredible scenery and activities. And we all know that Adventure Treks is mostly about the people, the community, the fun—and all of this can still happen whether in NC or Alaska!

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