Billy Mercantel says the goal of the Outdoor Pursuits program is simple: “We want to offer students the opportunity to experience outdoor recreational activities they might otherwise never be able to experience.”
Mercantel, who is the Assistant Director of the Outdoor Pursuits program, believes that helping students get outside, whether that’s by taking them canoeing down the Peace River or by skiing in the Appalachian Mountains, creates a foundation for a healthier lifestyle.
“The bonds I see students form after they come back from a trip… there’s nothing like that,” Mercantel said in an interview.
The Outdoor Pursuits program is a division of Campus Recreation. The program offers four to six trips every semester that any student can go on.
Some trips are local, such as canoeing in Estero River or snorkeling in the Rainbow River.
Other trips are out of state, like the three-day spring break backpacking trip in the Cheaha Forest of Alabama or the five-day ski trip in West Virginia.
The average cost of a trip varies depending on the location and the activity.
In-state trips range in cost from ten to thirty-five dollars. Out of state trips are costlier. The backpacking expedition in Alabama over spring break cost one hundred dollars per person, while the five-day ski trip to West Virginia last year, which included ski instruction and equipment costs, totaled four hundred fifty dollars per person.
Mercantel said that Outdoor Pursuits aims to keep every trip as affordable as possible.
“A lot of outdoor trips have a high barrier of entry, or a high cost,” Mercantel said. “When you pay for an Outdoor Pursuits trip, everything except for food is included. So, if you were to go camping, all of the equipment— the tent, the cook stove, the transportation—is included in that.” Mercantel said no previous experience is necessary to go on the trips. Most trips are geared towards a beginner level, and if any trip required advanced experience, it would be noted in the trip description on the website.
In addition to trips, the Outdoor Pursuits program has a high and low ropes Eagle Challenge Course located at Buckingham Center.
“It’s a great way to help people get to know each other, especially at the beginning of the semester,” Mercantel said.
The Eagle Challenge Course is free to any FGCU RSO or RSC. Students can reserve the Eagle Challenge Course by filling out the reservation request form on the website.
Mercantel said one of the biggest obstacles the Outdoor Pursuits program faces is participation.
“I think people just don’t know about us,” Mercantel said. “But there are [many] benefi ts to going on outdoor trips.”
“I’ve heard of Outdoor Pursuits and I would defi nitely go on a trip,” said FGCU Physical Therapy graduate student Kaylee Fichthorn. “I find it difficult to go on them because of my work schedule.”
“I haven’t heard of Outdoor Pursuits, but I would love to go on one of those trips!” said Stephanie Gallindo, a sophomore biochemistry major. “Knowing there’s an established program that shares information on these trips at affordable prices makes me more interested because of the convenience. I feel like going on outdoor trips allow you to regenerate yourself.”
Mercantel said all students need to do if they want to go on a trip is sign up on the Outdoor Pursuits website.
“Everyone is welcome,” Mercantel said. “We want these trips to be as accessible as possible.”