Pack your sleeping bag and outdoor leadership skills — it’s time for the Outdoor Nation Austin Signature Summit. This weekend more than 200 young outdoor leaders from across Texas will meet and camp at McKinney Falls State Park as a part of the two-day summit, with activities held at the University of Texas campus.

“It’s a pleasure to host such a motivated group,” said McKinney Falls superintendent David Shirley. “We are looking forward to the projects that come from this meeting.”

Participants in this year’s signature summit will spend the weekend addressing current barriers to outdoor recreation and discuss ideas to get their communities outside. The goal at the summit is for participants to return home to their communities with an action plan to connect people with the outdoors through initiatives funded at the summit by grants from Outdoor Nation totaling $10,000.

 “At these summits we look at the issues, challenges and barriers that prevent your peers, your younger brothers and sisters, your community from getting out and connecting with nature,” said Ivan Levin, Outdoor Nation director. “It’s the difference between passing a trail everyday and talking about how it needs love and care and actually stopping and picking up that piece of trash and planning an improvement project for that area in your town.”

In funding projects, Levin said the summit participants look for an activity or access point that will connect a community to the outdoors such as the creation and promotion of hiking, biking or paddling trails or other local recreational opportunities. Summit participants will also discuss issues and projects relating to outdoor stewardship and preservation.

“We’re looking at the big picture, how to connect more people to outdoor spaces now and into the future,” Levin said.  

Outdoor Nation is the signature program created by the Outdoor Foundation for young adults ages 16 to 28. The project seeks to connect participants’ respective communities to nature through outdoor recreation and education initiatives discussed at regional summits in different geographic areas around the United States.

This year Outdoor Nation will hold 10 summits across the country in locations such as Boston, Los Angeles, Denver and Austin. Each signature summit offers outdoor leadership training and financial assistance for projects voted on by the summit participants. 

For more information and to participate in the Austin summit, visit www.outdoornation.org/page/austin-summit.

For more information on McKinney Falls State Park visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/mckinney-falls or follow them on twitter @McKinneyFalls

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