The Power of City Camping

By Allison Torres Burtka ~ Sierra ~

Until the last couple of months, no one had used Detroit’s sole campground in more than a decade. In May, the first group of kids arrived to set up camp. The site, unbeknownst to most Detroiters, is nestled in the city’s 1,184-acre Rouge Park.

Just three years ago, Scout Hollow, once a staple of local Boy Scouts’ camping regimens, was overgrown. That’s when the Sierra Club’s Detroit Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO), an outdoor adventure and education program that aims to provide urban youths with positive outdoor experiences, along with a few like-minded partner organizations, swooped in to clean it up. Over time, Detroit ICO, the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, and the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit joined forces to launch Detroit Outdoors, a program that enables young workers and teachers to take groups of kids camping.

The idea for the program originated with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Outside” initiative. The above organizations collaborated with the National Park Service’s urban liaison for Detroit to figure out how to make a camping program a reality, and organizations including Friends of Rouge Park, the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Outdoors Empowered Network provided resources and expertise.

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