Action: Build and rehabilitate a network of shelters and Outdoor Center to provide opportunities for inspirational outdoor and overnight experiences in Connecticut.
What is it?
There are two tangible components to this Action – shelters and an Outdoor Center. The timeframe for considering these options are in the first 5 years of our Strategic Plan (by 2020).
Shelters: There are two primary opportunities to either establish or rehabilitate shelters where families or small groups would have the opportunity to have an overnight experience in a remote part of Connecticut in some proximity to the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. 1) There are up to a dozen shelters constructed by the state (CT DEEP) that are poorly or no longer maintained that CFPA may wish to rehab and help maintain. CFPA would perhaps be able to offer something special to CFPA members through these rehabbed shelters. 2) Another option is for CFPA to build overnight shelters on properties we own or on land owned by private or municipal landowners with shared goals. The Strategic Plan includes a recommendation of establishing or rehabbing 2 shelters by 2020.
Outdoor Center: The Outdoor Center would be a facility where families or groups could have an overnight experience and have the potential for educational programming to deepen that experience. This kind of place could be an amazing membership benefit to attract people to CFPA and the outdoors. There are three options for what an Outdoor Center might be: 1) the Outdoor Center could be a partnership with a group like Great Mountain Forest that may wish to be a primary partner in developing an Outdoor Center; 2) the Outdoor Center might be built on a property acquired by CFPA near forest and trails in a relatively remote part of Connecticut; or 3) the Outdoor Center might be a collaboration with George Camp and his family to build an Outdoor Center near CFPA headquarters, potentially in Highlawn Forest. These options have not been fully explored.
Why is it important?
There are a few reasons why this Action would be important: 1) CFPA does not currently have a shelter that could both serve the purpose of “connecting people to the land” and serving as a membership benefit. If, for example, we were to charge a fee to use the shelters at some point in the future, we would offer a reduced fee for members; 2) similarly, an Outdoor Center could serve three purposes: a place where a family or small group could have an overnight experience, an exclusive membership benefit, and a place where CFPA could offer environmental education programming; and 3) as mentioned above, there is a strong belief amongst CFPA board members that providing for an overnight experience in the woods and along a trail, will help bond CFPA members to the outdoors, to the trails, to each other, and to CFPA.
What will the impact be?
This kind of project has several ways that it can make an impact: 1) it is exciting, “transformative,” and can be a rallying point for CFPA supporters and volunteers (imagine work parties to build shelters, or a “barn raising” for an Outdoor Center); 2) it is often easier to raise $ for tangible construction projects like these since there may be naming opportunities, etc.; 3) there will be budget impacts on CFPA, e.g., the estimated expenses of the shelters is $5,000/shelter, relatively low, but an Outdoor Center would likely be relatively expensive; 4) it should help CFPA increase its membership through providing some tangible membership benefits that would attract others to CFPA; 5) there would be staff impacts in terms of the educational programming required and the logistics required to build/rehab shelters; and 6) these projects would help CFPA expand its influence in Connecticut directly through growing our membership, and indirectly through the buzz and mystique that could be created around these projects.