In preparation for the season, the folks of the River House Community Center are busy checking and organizing equipment so it will be ready for use upon the approach of this year’s montage of summer camps.
Outside of a large shed full of rafts, kayaks and life jackets, Lead Kayak Instructor Ben Marean explains that the community center caters primarily to school-age children, but that there are also family trips, adult classes and collaboration with some University of Oregon outdoor classes.
The outdoor activities are carried out in an educational setting taught by professionals, including Marean, who are passionate about introducing others to the wide variety of recreational opportunities that are available in and around Eugene.
On their website, the River House Outdoor Program shows a list of the classes they offer over the summer, including kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, sailing, skateboarding and even tree climbing.
The outdoor program sustains itself through the camp fees and the equipment is provided by the city.
When asked how recent economic tensions have affected the program, Marean explained that the city of Eugene, instead of making cutbacks, took a different angle of approach focusing “not what are you gonna cut, but how can you save money.” Therefore, the recreational program didn’t face shut down, as it might in other cities. Rather, the city worked with them to figure out ways to lower costs.
Furthermore, in the years of a down economy, those who are financially unable to afford the camp fees are still able to get into the camps with scholarship aid. Marean stated that he “never had a student that wanted to get into the camp that couldn’t.”
Giving the people of Eugene an opportunity to learn about their surroundings while having fun, ultimately leads to a greater appreciation of the outdoors. This is the overall mission of the River House. In a description of the Outdoor Program’s history on the City of Eugene Outdoor Program website, “It was in the 1960’s that the City of Eugene recognized the importance of creating more access for its residents in outdoor recreation.”
From there, the historical account states that the program grew in “both the quantity of program opportunities and the quality of outdoor instruction,” which “has continued to be a mainstay in program services at the River House Outdoor Program.”
By offering outdoor recreational opportunities to all of Eugene, the River House has provided, for more than 40 years, an exceptional service of tremendous value.