Kentucky Outdoor Adventure Project to light fire under would-be explorers

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Looking for adventure? Or whatever comes your way (assuming you're born to be wild, of course -- or at least out in the wild)?

Come chat with the Kentucky Outdoor Adventure Project.

The new non-profit organization in Pulaski County will host its first "Fireside Chat" event tonight (Wednesday, August 21) at Jarfly Brewing Co. in Somerset, with the goal of spreading an appreciation for outdoor fun and exercise, and giving people the tools they need to succeed at it.

"My hope is to get people to go on some crazy adventure that's story-worthy," said Kentucky Outdoor Adventure Project (KOAP) founder Brice Burton. "It's a way for this non-profit to build this outdoor appreciation culture in Somerset."

Burton is originally from Somerset and is back after leaving for several years and living in the state of Washington -- "in the shadows of Mt. Rainier," as Burton put it.

"It's an awesome place," he said. "Out there, the outdoors doesn't need any more (awareness raised about it). You go out there to the trailheads, they're packed early in the morning. There's so much public land, but so many more people that utilize it."

That's not quite the case in Kentucky, said Burton, even though the Bluegrass State is overflowing with natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities.

"The public lands that we have are under-utilized," said Burton. "This non-profit is meant to bring awareness to public lands, (and) to overcome the barrier of entry into public lands."

Burton is hoping to achieve this goal through "a host of different programs." The first planned to be launched is what he calls an "Outdoor Gear Library," where local organizations such as Boy Scout troops, church groups and others interested in going on adventures can "check out" gear they'll need to go out into the wild.

"We may open it up to families and individuals later on, but right now it's geared toward empowering leaders of clubs and organization," he said. "We do that by providing them with gear and the knowledge and know-how of where to go. (For example), 'This trail, I was on it last week, it's getting over run, let's try pushing you guys into this area.'"

Another goal of KOAP is to help promote health and physical fitness. Burton noted that with Kentucky having the third-highest rate nationally for obesity in youth ages 10-17, the urgency is there to "get people moving."

And there are few better places to do that than this area, with the Daniel Boone National Forest right at the back door, as well as Lake Cumberland and so many other outdoor opportunities.

"Somerset is a launching pad for outdoor recreation," said Burton. "I want that to be known. ... We have a passion to lower those barriers of entry into the outdoors and make good, high-end gear accessible to people through short-term loaner periods."

Another initiative by KOAP is the "Fireside Chat." It's not quite the same thing former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt popularized in office, but it may be even better.

"'Fireside Chats' is a way to help build the outdoor community, bringing people together under one roof to hear adventure stories," said Burton. "Out west, when I lived out there, this happened both organically and in formal settings."

Burton recalled going for hikes then having his buddies invite him to a bar as soon as he came down from the mountain to share stories. And their own conversations weren't the only ones he was exposed to while out.

"I'd be sitting at a bar or a coffee shop hearing guys behind me telling stories of adventure after a recent trip," he said. "These stories become not legend or lore, but like a fisherman's story -- I'm sure it's embellished, I'm sure that crevasse or rock wall was way smaller, but that's fine, that's storytelling, that's awesome."

Those experiences were educational as well as entertaining, as Burton would learn about new places to go or reports of up-to-date conditions in a particular area, and were also inspirational.

"I thought, 'I may not do what they did, but I can do something really cool,'" said Burton.

The Fireside Chats won't be a regular weekly thing -- "It's more of a one-off," said Burton -- but he is hopeful to do it again sometime. Coming in to share their stories is a group that took a cross-country trip and camped the whole way, he said. Burton noted that they intend to show that doing so is much more financially feasible than one might believe.

Also present will be Jeremiah Stringer, who has done a number of major trails in different states, such as the Foothills Trail in South Carolina or the Long Trail in Vermont.

"He's a local guy as well; he does a lot of local adventuring," said Burton. "He'll be sharing some of those stories."

The tales will each last just about a half hour or so, and as such the event overall shouldn't take very long, said Burton. It starts at 7 p.m. at Jarfly Brewing Co. on West Mt. Vernon Street and is free to the public -- though one is always encouraged to buy a beverage or two while there.

"People there may not know each other, but enjoy this kind of stuff, and hopefully they'll meet each other and maybe go on adventures together," said Burton, adding, "We're starting here, but hopefully it doesn't need to end here."

Visit www.kentuckyoap.org or "Kentucky Outdoor Adventure Project" on Facebook for more information.

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