MAPping a new course: UMD’s revamped Outdoor Recreation Center

By Jacob Bell

It happens every day. The clock strikes 5 p.m., dinnertime is quickly approaching, and Eppley Recreation Center becomes swamped with students.

“All the classes let out, so from about 5:30 to 10 it’s pretty busy,” sophomore architecture major, and ERC lifeguard, Jack Byrnes said.

Whether it’s the waves of students packing the gym, or simply a lack of enthusiasm for a traditional workout, many students find exercising a daunting or unpleasant task. That’s where the Maryland Adventure Program comes in.

Founded in 1998, MAP, formerly the Outdoor Recreation Center, is an unconventional option for students seeking fitness. In total, MAP is responsible for adventure trips, the campus bike shop, an equipment rental program, and the climbing wall and challenge course, both located behind the ERC.

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“The best thing about MAP is that it does provide opportunities for everyone of every skill level,” sophomore anthropology major, trip leader Sydney Sotelo said.

MAP orchestrates and provides a number of services for students eager to get fit or looking to have fun.

“Students can exercise in the backyard of the ERC by getting a strength workout at the climbing wall,” Outdoor Programs Coordinator Amanda Even said. “[They] can also get cardiovascular exercise through weekend adventure trips including backpacking and mountain biking.”

Last year, MAP offered 75 adventure trips. These ranged from outdoor activities at local destinations like Shenandoah National Park and Pocahontas State Park, to international ventures to Norway and Fiji.

“Outdoor recreation is fun, and often you’re not aware of how good of a workout you are getting until the end of the day,” Even said.

MAP also offers inventive and instructional courses. SUPYo and ClimbYo are MAP fusion classes that combine yoga (the “Yo” in each class) with either standup paddle boarding or climbing. Terps can also learn to lead adventure trips through EDCP318T, a University of Maryland course that instructs students about group cooperation and leadership.

“Taking the trip leader training course opened my eyes to the possibilities of outdoor recreation,” Sotelo said. “I’ve become more strong, more adventurous, and more brave than I ever thought I would be.”

Unlike many traditional ways to stay fit, one of MAP’s primary goals is to create bonds among its participants.

“The MAP community is unlike any other I’ve ever met. Every person here is understanding, passionate, driven, and above all else, empowering,” Sotelo said.

For senior environmental science major and MAP trip leader and rock wall supervisor Dave Erbe, this sense of community played a vital role in his college experience.

“When I first came to UMD not knowing anyone and as a transfer student living off campus, I was in a position where if I did not try, I would not be able to meet many people,” Erbe said. “[Through MAP] I met some of the most unique, inspiring people … MAP, to me, is the place that I call home.”

At the heart of MAP is a pursuit not only to make students healthier, but to foster individual growth and group relationships as well.

“My hope is that through an adventure setting, students are able to build relationships, gain an appreciation for the natural world, experience personal growth, and continue to practice wellness,” Even said.

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