UAF to build outdoor education center

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
March 22, 2011

By fall of 2011, university students and community members will have a new way to stay active. Both Chancellor Brian Rogers and the ASUAF senate have invested $50,000 each toward the construction of an outdoor education center. $100,000 has been invested so far.

People use the sledding hill next to the student recreation complex on a sunny afternoon. Currently this is one of the few outdoor winter recreation options on campus. The new outdoor education center will be located just west of this hill, where a stand of trees are currently located at the roundabout where Thompson drive meets with Tanana Loop. March 20, 2011. Photo by Greg Culley

The university is taking the new center seriously enough that an outdoor recreation expert was flown up to consult with both the administration and student leaders. Mike Anderson, who runs Petra Cliffs, a climbing center and mountaineering school in Vermont, discussed building locations and the potential types of recreation that the center could offer.

Ideas for the center include a zipline system from upper campus to lower, as well as structures for year-round ice climbing and bouldering. A zipline system incorporates a series of pulleys that are mounted on cables then strung high up in the air. An individual is then strapped to the cable with a harness, giving one all the fun of Tarzan without the worry of a snapping vine.

The center would also offer rock and ice climbing certification. In addition to the center, Mike Sfraga, Vice Chancellor for Students, added that the university plans to install snowboarding rails beneath the Butrovich building.

“Make the life center of the campus be the outdoor education center,” Anderson said during a January meeting with the student government. Sfraga couldn’t agree more, adding that when he attended UAF as a student in the 1990’s, he was often at a loss for what to do on campus in the winter.

Sfraga alleviated student concerns when he stated that the cost of the center did not justify an additional fee. The goal is to make the center financially self-reliant, drawing in revenue from community and tourist use of the center.

The university administration intends to have “something significant” up by this coming fall semester. The center will be built between the lower slope of Butrovich and Beluga Field. The area is wooded and is the site of an old and ungroomed ski trail. Facilities Services maintains a multipurpose trail that currently cuts across the future build site.

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