I am a teacher and an avid outdoorsman, having always filled my bucket by playing outdoors with others. So when COVID hit, and more people began recreating outside, I was stoked because so many of them were discovering the joy that comes from spending time outdoors.
Spread the love, I say. The more people invested in the outdoors, the better it is for everyone.
But recently, my wife and I visited one of our favorite climbing areas only to discover a mile-long line of parked cars, a trail resembling a zoo from so many people hiking to and from the rock, and excessive trail erosion. Despite my enthusiasm for sharing the outdoors with others, I grew increasingly frustrated with how our outdoor spaces are currently being treated.
But as we found our route and set up our rope, I looked around and noticed more diversity than ever before. I saw people of all ages and backgrounds having fun together while being physical under Colorado’s notorious sunshine. I saw a population of people who may, once the COVID pandemic is over, return to some of their previous hobbies, like attending sporting events or music festivals, rather than head to the climbing area.
At that moment, I reminded myself COVID will not last forever and these large crowds will not remain.
What will remain?
I believe a newly discovered love of the outdoors by hundreds—if not thousands—of people will come from this pandemic. And when people learn to love the outdoors, they become advocates for conservation and sustainable living.
Perhaps the COVID pandemic has increased the number of people who have changed their shopping habits into those that reduce consumption. Perhaps the COVID pandemic has turned people into environmental stewards looking to reduce their energy and fossil fuel usage. Perhaps there’s a teen rock climbing for the first time who is destined to become a leader in sustainable technology or policy.
So yes, right now, our favorite outdoor spaces are crowded, and that can be hard for those of us who have been using them for years. But this won’t last forever, and I’m optimistic only good can come from this newly found enthusiasm for the outdoors.