Friends of the Boundary Waters hosted a local Paddle Day event with CLUES YA! at Hiawatha Lake on July 25, 2021 in coordination with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) naturalist program. The event, supported by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation through our newly established People for Parks Fund, brought together around 25 students and mentors from both the St. Paul and Minneapolis CLUES campuses.
CLUES (Spanish for: Latino Communities United in Service) is Minnesota’s largest Latino-led nonprofit organization, founded to provide culturally and linguistically relevant services. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness aims to protect, preserve and restore the wilderness area of the Boundary Waters with and connect people, community, and wilderness. Friends of the Boundary Waters previously planned to host CLUES YA! in the Boundary Waters Wilderness area, but turned to MPRB to help plan a local and COVID-safe alternative in Minneapolis this year.
Paddle Day featured three activity stations relating to camping skills, canoeing, and a sound pollution/meditation station. After participating in each activity, students, mentors, and organizers shared a meal from Los Andes and some snacks around the fire. Additionally, a kit (including a picnic blanket, a gas card, a water bottle, and a Wheel Fun Rentals annual discount pass) was given to participants to encourage them to return to the parks throughout the year for other outdoor activities.
The day’s activities clearly made a positive impression. “People were excited to come back to the parks for the free canoeing days offered each week by MPRB throughout the summer and were interested in possible trip opportunities next year to the BWCA,” Alison Nyenhuis, Education Manager at Friends of the Boundary Waters told us. “This event met our goals of getting folks connected to the natural spaces in their own cities, encouraged them to come back to try more things in the parks, and built confidence and excitement for future trip opportunities to the BWCA with CLUES.”
CLUES youth also said Paddle Day was a safe and positive space for learning and gaining confidence outdoors.
“I enjoy trying new things. As usual, it feels intimidating before doing it, but it’s empowering learning how and seeing the result.” -Luis
“It was scary at first because I was afraid of falling in, and I had some anxiety, but I was glad to have the instructor with us that could help.” -Ester
“It was a great activity. I loved connecting with the CLUES team, mentors, mentees, and support organizations.” -Santiago
“After such a long time of only being able to offer virtual programming, we really appreciate such a fun event for our Latinx high school students and their mentors to enjoy connecting in the community,” said Tanya Schuh and Natalya Arevalo, CLUES YA! Program Manager and Program Coordinator, respectively. Tanya and Natalya were both at the event and applauded the results of a successful day, “We heard such positive feedback from participants about how well organized the event was, how much they enjoyed learning new skills together, and how great it was to be together.”