Women engage the outdoors at Craighead Forest Park

By Crystal Carter Harrell
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hosted the first Becoming an Outdoors Woman event at Craighead Forest Park where participants learned about the workshop, upcoming events and kayaking.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, more than 60% of U.S. women do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity. The CDC’s website suggests providing community-based programs and environmental inducements that meet the needs of all women.

The BOW program focuses on providing opportunities for women to learn skills such as cleaning deer, harvesting edible plants, nature observation, setting up game cameras, archery, quail hunting, canoeing, hiking, fishing, trapping, mountain biking and more.

“We just want to get people outdoors and enjoy it outdoors,” State Coordinator Lea Gray said.

Gray discussed safety protocols regarding life jackets for kids and adults, kayak size, adjustable equipment, proper paddle use and rowing techniques. She also informed the group on what to expect if the kayak flips over.

“Lightness of the kayak is important for women. I recommend falling out of it in a calm river so you’ll know what to do when it happens. Don’t ever get between the kayak and flowing water. Don’t get pinned,” Gray said.

Heather Custer, a biological sciences major and graduate student at Arkansas State University, said she decided to buy a kayak because her work in the Ozark National Forest needed some fun.

“I have flipped over before, so I came to get more tips and pointers. My friend Amanda told me about the group. I think it’s awesome to get women out here doing stuff together. While the men do their outdoorsy stuff, we’re not feeling left out,” Custer said.

Amanda Dunavant, volunteer for KLEK 102.5 FM, said she has always been interested in the outdoors. She grew up on the riverbank hunting and fishing. In her spare time, she kayaks with her sister-in-law at Spring River.

“Kayaking isn’t just a male sport. It’s a female sport too. Also, emergency awareness and preparedness is my title. People think emergencies are just tornadoes and earthquakes. It is not. It is everyday life. We are preparing for an emergency that we don’t want to be in the middle of and to be safe on the water,” Dunavant said.

Lee Elkins, Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center educator and coordinator of the Women Outdoor Network in Northeast Arkansas, said this event was the first in Jonesboro.

“We’re just getting started. Any woman that wants to be apart of a group of women who go outdoors or needs a buddy to go with, you can find one in this group,” Elkins said.

Women can learn about the permit system for game and fish and more at the Ozark Natural Science Center in Huntsville in November.

A maximum of 140 women may register for BOW.