Jersey Girls Go Outdoors

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by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Jersey girls have a mixed reputation. According to Bruce Springsteen, “nothing matters in this whole wide world, when you’re in love with a Jersey girl.” But thanks to the antics of the “Real Housewives” and the “Jersey Shore” cast members, the world’s reality TV fans may be wondering what the Boss was thinking.

Fear not… a new breed of Jersey girl is ready to take back the spotlight! The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife will once again hold its “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” workshop.

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New Jersey has offered a “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program since 1995 (although a few years were skipped), with a goal of providing opportunity for all kinds of women to learn about nature and receive expert training in skills like fishing, kayaking, hiking, shooting and orienteering.

The “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program was founded in 1991 by Dr. Christine Thomas, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, who identified barriers to women participating in outdoor activities. Workshops are held all over the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

This year’s New Jersey workshop will be held Sept. 10-12 in Avalon, with a focus on coastal ecology. It’s not your typical “girls’ weekend out.”

Over the span of three days, participants gain hands-on experience in activities they might never try on their own – archery and surf fishing, for example – in a supportive, non-competitive setting.

“There’s something very empowering about learning something new,” said Cathy Blumig, who is running the workshop for the third consecutive year. Blumig especially enjoys teaching first-timers with little outdoor experience. “It’s really rewarding to see the big smiles on their faces and hear them say they never thought they could do that.”

More than 20 different activities are offered. Women can learn about coastal ecology and estuary ecosystems, different types of fishing – bay, saltwater fly, surf or deep sea – or crabbing and clamming. There are classes on kayaking, and how to fish from a kayak. The “woodworking for wildlife” class teaches women how to make bluebird boxes, nesting platforms and bat boxes. Hikers will appreciate the training available in orienteering and geocaching. Those who enjoy the water can learn to snorkel or drive a motor boat. There’s training in falconry and sporting dogs, and one course even offers everything you need to know about hunting and preparing wild turkey.

The registration deadline for “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” is officially Aug. 9, but Blumig is willing to consider latecomers if lodgings are still available. The workshop costs $395, which includes hotel (double occupancy), seven meals, instruction and equipment use.

The workshop is open to those over 18 years old. To check availability, call Blumig at (908) 637-4317. To see the full course listing, go to the Division of Fish and Wildlife website www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw.

For Jersey Girls who want to become confident outdoors-women, this isn’t the only opportunity. To learn about other “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” workshops outside the Garden State, go to the group’s Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/Becoming-an-outdoors-woman.

And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.


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