By Ray Gildow
I have been giving a lot of thought to an issue that has emerged across America. Who will take an interest in the outdoors when the current generations are gone?
Writers like to place people in categories to look at trends, values, and interests. We have the Greatest Generation, those born from 1930-1946, The Baby Boomer Generation, those born from 1946-1964, the Millennials, those born from 1982-2004 and then all the new kids born from 2004 until now, they don’t have a name yet but folks are playing with categories like, TwoKays, 2YK, Tweenials, Conflict Generation, and well, you get the idea. Too early to name this group yet. But when it comes to outdoor issues we know a couple of things for certain. The Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers care about the outdoors. The Millennials, with exceptions, not as much, and the newest generation, yet unnamed, are just not that interested in outdoor activities. They are the computer generation and they are the future.
It is the folks who hunt, fish, hike and play outdoors that not only pay for much of the outdoor experience, they are the folks who have historically passed the legislation protecting our water, land and natural resources. What will happen if the next generation doesn’t have the interest in the outdoors that past generations have had? That is a major concern across America as state and private groups scramble to find new ways to attract kids to the outdoors. Sports companies, state DNR agencies, private clubs, organizations, and individuals are organizing efforts to get kids interested in the many things the great outdoors has to offer!
John, “Kolt” Ringer of Deephaven is a wonderful example of an individual making a difference with kids. Ringer was a teacher and started a summer guide business on Lake Minnetonka just west of the Minneapolis as a summer job. He soon realized that there were so many kids who had never experienced fishing that he started his own fishing school, American Angler League, a concept that focuses on teaching kids how to fish.
Many sporting goods companies have stepped forward to make donations for organizations who help kids get into outdoor activities. The Minnesota DNR has the MinnAqua Educational Program for schools, youth groups and community organizations that teaches angling recreation, stewardship, conservation and ecology. These are the kinds of activities that are being developed that will make a difference!
Where once dads, moms, and grandparents were the mentors for the outdoors, we have come to realize we have to find new ways to get this young generation involved. Many of the kids of today just don’t have the opportunities to do outdoor activities. Much credit must be given to the individuals, groups and organizations that have come to realize that the kids of today are the outdoor stewards of tomorrow. “Take a kid fishing” is a phrase that has never been more important than today!