As spring and summer finally arrive, nature is blossoming again. Florence is the home of UNA, a place which holds many opportunities for students to get active and explore nature. There are a lot of activities for students on campus, but even more options for those willing to leave it.
One of the greatest resources for students who want to get outside is UNA’s Outdoor Adventure Center. The OAC is located at 216 Irvine St., across the street from the George S. Lindsey Theatre and Norton Auditorium.
“The best way to spend an afternoon, if you don’t have homework, or need a break from your homework, renting bikes from the OAC is the way to go,” said junior Gregory Wright.
The OAC allows students to rent outdoor gear like kayaks, hammocks, sleeping bags, bikes and more. Checking out equipment is free for UNA students with a Mane Card and active driver’s license.
It offers weekly and monthly trips where students go hiking, rock climbing and other free activities. The OAC has maps, brochures and pamphlets that students can pick up to get more information, such as trail locations and travel routes.
Getting involved with the OAC only requires going to the building.
“That’s part of why we’re here, to be a resource for students, not just to rent out stuff,” said OAC graduate assistant Christian Walker.
OAC student worker Mackenzie Gillis said the most popular items students check out are hammocks and kayaks. She said on days where the weather is nice, students should try to get there early because they go fast.
Cypress Creek is a popular place to kayak. Gillis said most people paddle the four-mile stream to take the kayaks out at Wildwood Park. This creek has mostly flat waters, which makes it ideal for beginners and those who just want to float on through.
For those who enjoy hiking, Florence has trails open to the public.
“I recommend (students) expose themselves to some of our local areas,” Walker said.
The most popular are the TVA Nature Trails. One of the trails is a 2.9-mile loop located by the Old Railroad Bridge, which is an easily accessible starting location. Cane Creek in Tuscumbia and Bankhead National Forest in Double Springs are all popular hiking destinations outside of Florence.
McFarland Park is one of the most well known and visited areas in Florence. People of every age go there to enjoy the outdoors with their friends and family.
“(Going outside) provides you with this release of stress and anxiety, and you just get to be somewhere that’s calming and relaxing,” Wright said .
He said he also enjoys going to McFarland Park to hammock with friends and take a dog from the local animal shelter for a walk.
“We live in such a beautiful place,” Gillis said. “If you’re living here, you might as well take advantage of it.”
For those that are not nature enthusiasts, just getting outside can be beneficial, relieving stress and anxiety.
“Leisure activity outside is probably one of the biggest stress relievers, so it’s very important,” Walker said.
Apart from the main quad at UNA, downtown coffee shops and restaurants give access to outdoor seating for people who are not ready to fully commit to a hike or other expedition.
“Study outside, because it can help you focus and clear your mind,” said freshman Katie Clanton.
During the semester, find some time to get outside and explore the Florence community and the parks right next to campus.