Nevada

Club in Wilbraham reopened – or out for a hike

 

January 25, 2023 | Miasha Lee

WILBRAHAM – After a long hiatus, the Wilbraham Hiking Club (WHC) is back with some new changes. The club joined forces with the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Department, with Parks and Rec. hosting your trips and registering. Hiking leader Sue Burke has been a member of the club since 2014. She asked the Parks and Recreation Department if the club could relaunch on the Department of Recreation website, and it all started from there.

“What we’re trying to do is streamline communication and make it very easy for people to find something about the Wilbraham Hiking Club without having to do it redundantly,” Burke said. “This gives us a very easy way to track and manage members; knowing who’s going to go camping.”

The goal of the Wilbraham Hiking Club is to allow hikers of all abilities to join in and experience the Wilbraham gold mine, full of exciting knowledge of the trails, wildlife, flora and fauna.

Founder Jay Taylor was a new member of the City’s Open Space and Recreation Planning Committee. He saw that Wilbraham had many services for children and the elderly, but not so many for middle-aged adults at the time. Taylor had been an active traveler for most of his adult life and thought Wilbraham could use a hiking club. He got the go-ahead from the Open Space Committee for its development and spent the end of 2011 until next spring exploring the area and talking to different cities and locals about their trails. The first campaign of the club took place in the spring of 2012.

“I was looking for something that I could do and encourage others to do,” Taylor said. “The first five years that I was in charge of the club, it grew rapidly. We traveled mainly in local and regional areas, and also went to national parks in the west and in other states.

He went on to say, “I have kept in touch with Sue through COVID. [-19] closes and she has done a wonderful job getting the club back up and running.”

The Open Space Committee was the original sponsor of the touring club. Burke told Reminder Publishing that the club has grown tremendously organically and has become so popular with non-residents as well as residents that one of their members created not only a Facebook page, but also a Meetup page for the touring club. At this point, the club appeared on Facebook, and on the Meetup page, the number of people who signed up as members of the walking club exceeded 3,000 people. At the same time, the club had a wide variety of trips, sometimes almost 20 trips per month of different levels and opportunities. Meetup page and Facebook page stayed in sync, but with COVID [-19] the group stopped.

“When the club first started, there was no formal registration process,” Burke explained. “In trying to restart the club, we started to rethink how the club can work better in the future.” She continued: “We still offer free hikes, but club members now register through the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Department, which is a simplification for hike leaders. By moving it to the Department of Parks and Recreation, when people sign up for our hikes, hike leaders get a list of everyone who signed up.”

Director of Parks and Recreation Brian J. Litz added: “We have been working with the club since 2012 and work with various club leaders year after year to come up with the program. The benefits for residents are enormous, the main ones being socialization and exercise. The advantage of the department is that it can offer a free program and also offer a program that is attractive to people outside of youth sports, which is our main focus.”

He continued, “It’s great to be able to offer a club that people can join for free, play sports, make friends, or just get together with current friends and enjoy great outdoor activities like hiking.”

Burke’s goal at the hiking club is for everyone to continue to enjoy walking together and to be able to enjoy the beautiful Wilbraham trails and trails from the surrounding towns. She wants more leaders to lead hikes for the club, because the more leaders they have, the more variety of hikes they have to offer. She would also like someone to come forward who wants to be the coordinator of the program so that she is in good hands in the future and her continuation would not depend on anyone.

“By offering a wide variety of hikes, people with a wide variety of interests can find something to enjoy,” Burke said. “Seeing the unexpected pleasure people get when they go camping in a new area for the first time is the most rewarding part of this club.”

To sign up for Wilbraham Hiking Club hikes, please visit the Wilbraham Hiking Club Facebook page, which was deactivated on January 20th. The Meetup group will continue to have over 3,000 members. It was renamed The Valley Hikers. It is still on hold and will hopefully resume soon. Anyone who was a member of the Wilbraham Hiking Club Meetup is now a member of The Valley Hikers Meetup and can also join the newly relaunched Wilbraham Hiking Club at wilbrahamrec.com. You can find updates about the Wilbraham Walking Club on the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Facebook page and on the Wilbraham Open Space Committee Facebook page.

The next hike is scheduled for January 31 at Springfield Reservoir in Ludlow at 10:00.

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