Get Outdoors Leadville! will open the doors to its new gear library at Colorado Mountain College on April 17 with an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The night before, a virtual event titled “Night of Inspiration” will feature three speakers from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Although the gear library, which offers snow bikes, Nordic skis, camping equipment and other types of outdoor gear for $100 a year, has been a part of Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!) since the organization’s start five years ago, it has operated from several locations, including three different school district facilities.
GOL!’s new location at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is meant to be permanent. The building, which features a classroom for gear training and community events, was partially paid for by funds earmarked in GOL!’s initial 2016 award of $3 million.
“It’s been our organization’s goal to systematically break down barriers to accessing the outdoors,” said GOL! Interim Director Becca Katz. “We hope this new space can continue to do that in new ways.”
Originally, GOL! planned to build a gear library at Huck Finn Park near Lake County School District’s administrative building, but the plan fell through for various technical reasons. In the following years, GOL! conducted different community surveys about where a gear library would be useful and looked at several other potential locations. When Rachel Pokrandt took over as the vice president and campus dean of CMC’s Leadville campus, she reached out to GOL! to collaborate.
According to Katz, GOL! chose to build its gear library on CMC’s campus for a number of reasons, including CMC’s proximity to trails and the college’s Outdoor Recreation Leadership program, which teaches students to guide others in the outdoors. Students enrolled in the program will have the option of working at the gear library as part of their education.
“We’re happy to be on CMC’s campus,” said Jackie Radilla, who manages the gear library. “We want to activate this space not just for students and people who are already outside, but also for people who may not have had an outdoor experience yet.”
Radilla said that includes Latino and minority communities, which account for about 32 percent of Leadville’s population.
In 2016, when GOL! was getting started, the organization sent 12 locals into the community for a year-long research project. Six of the researchers were Latina women who conducted more than 200 interviews within Latino communities.
GOL! researchers found that Latino and minority populations face three major barriers in accessing the outdoors: physical barriers, often meaning difficulty getting to trailheads and recreational spaces; cultural barriers, often meaning feeling unwelcome in outdoor spaces; and social barriers, often meaning feeling excluded from social circles that revolve around outdoor recreation.
The gear library emerged as a way to address these barriers. There is still work to be done, Radilla said, especially when it comes to engaging Latino and minority communities on CMC’s campus. For instance, GOL!’s next step will be to establish a transit system to get people to and from the gear library.
“If anything over the years, we’ve realized that we need to be a resource to our community, and that we need to meet people where they’re at,” said Katz. “Our hope is that every person in Leadville is comfortable enough to visit the gear library and take out gear.”