When we retrieve our Outwoods newsletter from our mailbox every month and look at the events taking place, we don’t usually think of the time before the Twin Cities had a GLBT outdoor recreation organization. However, prior to 15 years ago, there was no Outwoods. Flashback to 1987:
June 1987: Steve Birch attends Gay Pride in New York City. He sees a huge contingent of men marching carrying outdoor equipment, riding bikes and handing out literature about their club, Sundance Outdoor Adventure Society. The group was led by a man dressed as a spruce tree. Steve runs after the spruce tree, speaks with him and is encouraged to start an outdoor group in the Twin Cities.
August 1989: A letter appears in the August 30, 1989 issue of Equal Times. It announces the formation of a GLTB outdoor wilderness activities club in the Twin Cities and asks interested people to call. Steve buys an answering machine, records the sound of a loon -- and waits.
September 1989: Almost 50 people called and on September 18th, 23 people met at Bush Lake in Bloomington to discuss the beginnings of the group and pick a name. "Evergreen Club", "Aurora Borealis Club", and "Gay Prairie Club" were all suggested and discarded. Outwoods is born.
October 1989: The first Outwoods event is a fall colors hike in Afton State Park, led by Mark H.
Fall 1989 to 1991: Mission statement and by-laws are written, Outwoods is incorporated as a non-profit, and the first newsletter is published. The first open house is organized at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Outwoods has their first pride booth (shared with Front Runners). Originally the newsletter was free, and board members took turns personally paying for printing and postage. Within 8 months, the mailing list reached 250 names. When the decision was made to charge for the newsletter, the list immediately dropped to 60 people. Many of the first trips could have been from a recent newsletter: hiking in regional parks, biking on nearby trails, cross country skiing, snow tubing, and phenology walks, to name a few.
I know that I am grateful to Outwoods for the great friends I have made and the good times that I have had on events. Let's look forward to another 15 years!
Pat, September 2004