| The Future of Columbus Outdoor Pursuits|
Outdoor Pursuits has been significantly impacted by the circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in March of 2020 Governor Mike DeWine issued a ban against large group gatherings. Social distancing and public health guidelines forced the cancellation of most Outdoor Pursuits events and caused a decline in participation of many others. We lost income from over 90% of our scheduled events.
In response to this situation, the Outdoor Pursuits board made some tough decisions to keep costs to a bare minimum including furloughing most staff. The Board continued to meet regularly via Zoom and came up with creative ways to help replace lost income.
We partnered with other organizations to expand our offerings into new activities that met Ohio health guidelines. These activities included bicycle tours of Greenlawn Cemetery, kayak tours on the Scioto River with Olentangy Paddle, Rising Youth summer camp in downtown Columbus, and river clean-ups paid for by an Ohio EPA grant. During the winter we held education classes and presentations online. Each of these activities generated some revenue, but this revenue has been insufficient for us to pay our basic costs for rent, payroll, insurance, and utilities.
Participants who registered for GOBA, XOBA, and TOSRV in 2020 were given an option to defer their participation for the same event held in one the next three years.
We resumed events in 2021, but participation was uniformly down over the same events held in 2019. For example, as an alternative to GOBA, we offered the Western Ohio Bicycle Adventure in June of 2021. GOBA had an attendance of 1,110 in 2019, but to meet public health guidelines, we limited the event to 500 riders. Unfortunately, the event only had 260 riders and we barely broke even. Similarly, XOBA was held in August 2021, and only 12 people registered compared to 45 riders in 2019.TOSRV was September 25-26 and registrations were 400, which was far below the 603 who rode in 2019. The Cycling Series, which includes our 10 traditional budget rides, were offered both as group rides and as rides-on-your-own in 2021. However, participation in these rides also declined.The boating committee did not schedule their boating activities until the summer of 2021. This is normally done in January of each year, but they were reluctant to schedule events given the circumstances of the pandemic. There is still a great amount of uncertainty around the pandemic including virus mutations, the rise in cases, and the political and legal wrangling over too many or too few governmental health restrictions. We anticipate that this may continue to quench the enthusiasm for participation in future events. Many people are hesitant to put themselves in situations where they may be in close contact with others. The board has sought legal advice to determine the best course of action related to continuing financial obligations, like rent and insurance, while still having decreased revenue.
The Next Twelve Months
We feel that with kind support from our awesome membership and keeping strict cost controls, there is a good chance for Outdoor Pursuits to continue its 84-year legacy. A financial plan is being developed that we hope will carry Outdoor Pursuits through the end of 2022. The details are not final, but several key components are listed below:
The organization utilized part of an endowment fund created by longtime TOSRV Director and supporter Charlie Pace. Income was generated from the kayak tours on the Scioto River, and that season concluded in early October.Going forward, all events will need to be self-sufficient and create sufficient revenue to cover costs. In the past, many event costs were covered by the revenue generated through GOBA and TOSRV. We can’t rely on that for 2021 and 2022.Staffing has been voluntarily cut. Our devoted staff worked tirelessly in 2020 and 2021 to keep the organization operational. They cultivated partnerships and worked long hours, often on a volunteer basis, to keep our doors open. Fortunately, two staff members are able to step away from the organization either temporarily or permanently.As a result of this staff reduction, we need to rely on volunteers to meet tasks that were performed by staff.We will fully launch a fundraising campaign in November. Opportunities to help include a targeted donation to fund the operation of the office each month. A long-time member, who deeply values the mission of Outdoor Pursuits, has already doplnated $2,400 for the first month. We hope members will join together to fund the remaining 11 months. We welcome any donation large or small. It is all tax-deductible! Here’s the link to our donation page: https://app.donorview.com/jVAo
It has been a challenging two years for all of us. At the end of 2019 we were all looking forward to 2020 and a milestone TOSRV anniversary. Little did we know what would unfold in a few months – a pandemic that would upend our personal, professional, and social lives to an extent not imagined. The next twelve months are critical, and we need your help.
Questions and Answers
Q. What will happen to Outdoor Pursuits staff?A. Two voluntarily quit for an indefinite period. We will attempt to maintain one staff person and ask for volunteers to assist with operations.
Q. Will there be GOBA, XOBA, TOSRV in 2022?A. The plan is to hold all three events in 2022. The dates for GOBA and TOSRV have been reserved. TOSRV will be September 24-25, because that is the date Portsmouth is willing to host TOSRV.
Q. What happens to the GOBA, TOSRV, or GOBA deferral that I have?A. Deferrals remain in place and can be utilized in an event up through 2023 when we are hopeful that full activities will resume.
Q. What happens to the office lease on South Front St.?A. We have been in discussions with the landlord about the terms of the lease, which has 2 ½ years remaining. We also lease two storage areas on the office property, and we are removing non-critical equipment so we can cease use of those storage areas. For example, the boating committee sold 20 boats that were no longer needed.
Q. Will there still be activities such as the kayak tours, bicycle tours, backpacking, etc.?A. Each activity will be reviewed. For many years GOBA and TOSRV financially supported most other activities, but in the future, each activity will need a fee structure that ensures it pays for itself. Volunteers can significantly help minimize costs and affect the ability for an activity to be held.
Please join us for the Annual Membership Meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, at 6:30 PM. Registration is here.
Email us at email@example.com or call us at 614-442-7901.