Friday, December 21, 2012

The Move to Minneapolis

New logo. Kudos to Alyssa Phanitdasack

Great news! Due to connections and an abundance of support from people, organizations, and outfitters in Minnesota, WRA is relocating operations to Minneapolis in 2013. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in DC and, once things are running smoothly in Minnesota, we have every intention of returning the area to lead trips. I want to thank all of you here for the support we have received in the last few months. The outfitters, paddling clubs, and schools have shown that DC is ready for a program like this, and we can't wait to return operations to the Potomac River in a few years.

These last couple months have been very exciting for the WRA team. Nick and I have been working on grants, sponsorships, business operations, and our business model. We crossed paths with a wonderful young woman named Anna Johnson, who came on our first Wild River Academy trip in October and has agreed to join our efforts in Minnesota. Her role is to build curriculum about the land, water, wildlife, communities, and history surrounding the Minnesota River, coupled with outdoor and interpersonal skills. Anna, Nick, and I will all lead trips during the summer months.

To better fit our audience in Minnesota, we have changed our business model. Our new slogan is:

 Know the land. Know the water. Know yourself. 

Wild River Academy now provides an opportunity for high school girls to get to know where they are from through the medium of a wilderness adventure. We will take girls ages 14-18 out to paddle the Minnesota River from Montevideo to Minneapolis, stopping to talk with environmental organizations, farmers, state park rangers, and community members to learn about environmental and social issues along Minnesota's waterways. Girls will not only learn about the land and its people, but will gain invaluable life skills through the physical and emotional challenges inherent in wilderness trips. 

When Ann and I paddled the Minnesota River in 2011, ( we were surprised by the rich wildlife and vibrant communities present along the route. We learned about the Great Sioux Wars and German POW Camps from our stops at State Parks, which Ann had learned about in school but did not fully comprehend until we visited the sites. I grew up in Miami, FL, but after paddling the Minnesota River and connecting with the communities along the river valley, my heart now resides in the Midwest. Ann and I talked to farmers and organizations about life on the river, the practices and systems that harm it, and what is being done to ensure cleaner water and healthier communities for future generations.  I hope to share these connections and experiences with women at a younger age so that they have an understanding of environmental issues, the difference between faulty and effective systems, and the importance of community, coupled with a sense of place and a better understanding of their beautiful home: Minnesota.

Groups will paddle, cook, and converse in a group to build relationships, communication skills, and encourage creative problem solving. At night we will enjoy each other's company around the fire with lively conversation and musical instruments. We might even play a little capture the flag during the day... ;)

To help build our presence in Minnesota, we would appreciate any connections to network, build partnerships, and gain sponsorships. If you would like to donate canoes, trailer hitches, life jackets, paddles, etc., we would greatly appreciate your support. Simply connecting us with people in the outdoor world would be a great help! Email with any suggestions. Thanks for your support, and we are looking forward to the move in February.

See you soon,

The WRA Team
Natalie, Nick, and Anna