Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Five-day RiverTrek melds outdoor fun with learning

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OREGONIA — Chris Boner is a 14-year-old junior high student who thought he had seen every type of classroom.

        But Monday morning in the woods near the Little Miami River, Chris was about to enter a natural one.

        Standing on the river's rocky shore near the village of Oregonia in rural northern Warren County, the Forest Park youth was minutes from embarking on a five-day, 60-mile canoe trip south to the Ohio River.

        Chris and 45 other Cincinnati teens soon would be navigating the Little Miami, studying it, camping near it and, most of all, learning from it.

        “It looks challenging,” Chris said with a slight hesitation as he watched the brisk river current. “But I think it's going to be fun.”

        Fun is part of RiverTrek 2000, which brings Cincinnati teens ages 13-17 out onto the river and into the woods. Education and personal growth comprise the rest of the mission of this annual floating classroom co-sponsored by the Cincinnati Recreation Com mission and Morgan's Canoe and Outdoor Centers.

        The students, who are racially diverse and come from households of varying incomes, were picked from a pool of teens recommended by various CRC officials, clergy and teachers.

        Some earned a spot on the canoe trip as a reward for volunteer work. Others were chosen because CRC officials believe they could learn skills, confidence and experience that might help them deal with personal difficulties.

        Most have never canoed or camped.

        “Sleeping overnight in the woods, that kind of worries me,” said Chris, a volunteer at the CRC's Evanston center. “I don't know what's in those woods.”

        Nishina Evans knows, and that is why the Withrow High School junior returned for a third consecutive RiverTrek.

        “It's a thrill. And it helps a lot of young people learn from the experience, especially those that haven't been away from home before,” said the 16-year-old Madisonville teen, who aids RiverTrek staffers as a “peer leader” assisting the trip's first-timers.

        “Nothing is staged on this journey. We couldn't begin to compete with the natural events that might occur,” said Dale Doerman, CRC recreation program coordinator.


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