By David Markham
Aryeh Goldman fervently believes outdoor education and adventure programs can impact the community and change the world.
As the new outdoor adventure specialist at JCPRD’s TimberRidge Adventure Center, he looks forward to putting his convictions into action.
“I get a lot of satisfaction working with people, whether that’s mentoring or coaching or supporting or all of the above, to set them up for success for their programs, which kind of naturally leads into the fulfillment and satisfaction that people get when they go through a program that is amazing to them,” he said. “For some of them, that is the climbing wall – getting someone up on the wall and people are so excited, so proud, and so happy. Sometimes it’s fishing when it’s the first time kids have been fishing and they reel a fish in, and you as a facilitator are reliving the moment of the first time you reeled something in. They’re just so excited to be there. It’s a belief that this type of work actually makes a difference and has the potential to change the world. It really is that for me. You run into people 20 or 30 years later that are still talking about the amazing programs – it’s the impact that you have on people, and through that you have an impact on the larger community.”
Goldman stepped into the outdoor adventure specialist position in mid-November after working as a Johnson County Park Police Officer for about a year. He also brings 17 years of prior experience from the American Jewish University-Brandeis Bardin Campus, a 3,000-acre facility in Brandeis, Calif., where he worked his way up from part-time outdoor educator to serving for 10 years as director of outdoor education.
He grew up in Pennsylvania but moved to Southern California at the age of 17. Goldman holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from California State University Northridge, and a masters of arts in teaching from the American Jewish University.
“It’s a dream position for me,” he said of the TRAC job. “Basically, my entire career has been outdoor education, experiential education, nature skills, and survival skills. TimberRidge is super exciting for me because it has everything that I have been doing for so long, and it’s added a lot of elements that are for me the next step up for this type of career. I think it’s got a lot of opportunities for me to work with a great team, and continue the good work that’s been happening, and continue to develop the property.”
Goldman’s duties at TimberRidge include facility management and setup, scheduling and planning, hiring and training staff, and creating curriculum for spring break and summer camps.
“We want to continue serving the community like we’re doing,” Goldman said. “We have a lot of groups that love some of the programs that we do; we want to continue doing that. We want to add some more offerings, more of the survival skills. We want to grow the capacity of the people that we can work with while maintaining the high-quality standards of the programming that we do. During summertime, I’d really like to grow that into much more of a summer camp. More people, more age ranges.”
Future improvements he’d like to see at TRAC include: access to high-speed internet, rebuilding the docks on the main pond, and adding adult survival skill programs.
During his first summer as outdoor adventure specialist, Goldman says he will be watching for the “wows.”
“I am looking forward to the first time somebody says ‘wow’ at TimberRidge,” he said. “At the program that I (previously) worked in for a while, we used to call it the wow program, and the idea was that the criteria for success was when a participant said the word ‘wow’ out loud. So whether that’s outdoor cooking, or fire making, or climbing or something like that, I will be listening for the first time a person says the word ‘wow.’”
Chances are, Goldman won’t have to wait long based on the many awesome camps planned at TRAC this summer. Camps he will be running include: TRAC Amazing Adventures Camp for ages 9-14, TRAC Climbing & Rappelling Camp for ages 12-14, TRAC Fishing & Boating Camp for ages 12-14, and the new TRAC Survival Skills Camp for ages 9-14.
The new adventure specialist has already instigated some changes for TRAC’s summer camp programs.
One of these involves expanding the age ranges for several of the camps to add nine- and ten-year olds.
“We wanted to capture a little bigger of an age group, but not have an nine-year old with a 14 year old for the duration of a day,” he said. “In the future, we are hoping to continue to bump that age range, to continue to add camps and activities for younger participants.”
In the past, participants in TRAC camps would be dropped off and picked up at Ernie Miller Park and taken by bus to TRAC. For this year’s camps, TimberRidge will be the drop-off and pick-up location, which will reduce congestion at Ernie Miller Park and allow for more activity time for participants.
“It does a couple of major things for us, and it has some benefits for the campers,” Goldman said. “There’s already a lot of kids at Ernie Miller Park in the morning with the various camps, and there can be a lot going on there, so it simplifies that situation. It also doesn’t limit our TRAC camp capacity based on what the bus capacity is. It sets us up to grow TimberRidge as a more robust summer camp program and as more of a home base as opposed to a kind of field trip. I know we’re asking more of people to do that, and it’s with the intention of getting more program time for the campers out there.”
In conjunction with this change, he’s also staggered camp start times so that if a parents had to drop off and pick up one child at Ernie Miller Park and another at TRAC, there will be a time gap for them to do that.
Goldman said he’s excited about working with TRAC’s Hawk’s Nest Climbing tower, which has elements that the tower where he previously worked did not.
“What’s special about the TimberRidge wall is that it has an internal access to get to the top,” he said. “So you have more options of doing things with people. It’s much easier to facilitate a rappelling program when people can walk to the top as opposed to having to climb to the top and then set them up to rappel. I’m really excited to work with that tower.”
With an emphasis on developing the property, the person in this position before me did an incredible job, a huge amount of work. It’s clear that you can see her passion and development in where she took the property.
“I’m lucky in a lot of ways that there’s an established set of programs and people who come to TimberRidge and love TimberRidge and those are programs I can continue doing. It’s still in western Johnson County,” said Goldman. “There’s not a lot of development around there right now, so it has this really kind of private nature feel to it where you’re in your own world. It has fantastic infrastructure in terms of its high ropes course and low ropes course, and amenities that we can offer there, and we have some great staff.”
If there’s one thing he wishes the public knew about TRAC, it’s the full range of program offerings at the facility.
“I think a lot of groups have gone out there and done one thing or two things, but we offer so many types of programs,” he noted. “A lot of groups go out there to use the low ropes course, but we also have the climbing tower, great hiking trails, and really great wildlife.”