The CSUN Aquatic Center at Castaic Lake (Aquatic Center) served upwards of 3,500 youth over the summer of 2017. This included hosting a water safety and boating experience program at the fourth annual Stansport Campout.
Stansport, a family-owned outdoor equipment and camping supplier in Los Angeles, has been partnering with the Aquatic Center for the past three years to offer a fun and safe outdoor water and camping experience to LAPD Devonshire PALS (PALS) children and their families. PALS is an after-school and weekend program for at-risk youth that builds positive relationships between them and the LAPD.
Chris Whitesides, the Aquatic Center manager, and a team of student staff members facilitated nearly five hours of on-water kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddling and sailing for the event.
“This year we offered our general water safety education which involved strategies for staying safe in and around the water, as well as the importance of wearing a properly fitting personal floatation device. This was also the first year we were able to offer sail boat rides to everyone at the event,” said Whitesides.
A majority of the children and their families had never boated before the event in any capacity.
“Whatever the barrier had been, economic issues, uncertainty, lack of opportunity, urban challenges, fear of new things, every single person in that group [ended up] paddling a canoe, kayak, stand up paddle board or went on a sail boat,” said Whitesides. “That was one of the most impactful moments for me.”
In fall 2017, the Aquatic Center also led a series of classes called “Paddle Safe and Leadership” in conjunction with the CSUN program Re/Connecting People with Parks. The program is coordinated by Michelle Best, chair of CSUN’s Department of Recreation and Tourism Management, and offers an expert-guided introduction to outdoor activities for people in the Los Angeles area.
The primary goal is to foster interest in the outdoors, especially among minorities and underserved populations who face barriers to participating in outdoor activities, such as paddling, because of transportation challenges or equipment costs.
From September through November 2017, certified instructors taught small groups of community members and students how to kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board. In addition to water sports skills, group members received leadership training to help them encourage their family, friends and community members to try water-based recreation activities. All activities on the lake are supervised by CSUN staff who are certified lifeguards.
The Aquatic Center had a great impact on the community by offering a variety of outdoor boating and water experiences to local children, teens and their families. In 2018, Nathan Martin, the Aquatic Center director, hopes to continue expanding outreach to community groups and elementary schools and to create open-enrollment opportunities for individuals, families and small groups.