students developing self-esteem and team building

Inspiring the love of the land

Welcoming experiences in nature last a lifetime

Thanks to partnerships with Verona Beach State Park, Delta Lake State Park, private landowners, Midtown Utica Community Center, and Young Scholars LLP in Utica, more young people than ever are finding joy in the outdoors in the southern part of Tug Hill.

Youth who never knew the scent of fresh forest air have returned to their families and communities with new energy. They’ve started sharing their excitement, pride in newfound abilities, and knowledge with their friends and family members.

Research has documented that time spent outside with others can help reduce feelings of isolation, build self-esteem, relieve stress, and create treasured memories. Whether learning to use a map and compass, paddle a canoe, set up a campsite, or hike safely, these youth are connecting with nature, experiencing a sense of peace and belonging, and feeling accomplished.

Julie Rubenstein, who owns Camp Woodlot in the Town of Forestport, where a lot of the trail work has been happening, explained her passion for kids and nature.

“Too many young people today — especially in urban areas — have little opportunity to experience what the outdoors has to offer. Team building, self-esteem, respect, serenity, science, spirituality, and physical exercise, can all be found in nature,” explained Julie.

As they move forward as future decision-makers for conservation, their connections and knowledge gained now will serve them all well in the years ahead.