Note: This story first appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Greenville Life Magazine, which is released quarterly by Herald-Banner Publications. To subscribe, contact the circulation department at 903-455-4220.
With summer here once again, there can be a sense of dread for families looking for things to do during the time off of school.
It might be too time consuming or expensive to take a trip, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the area that can provide activities for the family.
However, there is a place in Hunt County that can provide outdoor fun, and a lot of it for free, as Outdoor Adventure at Texas A&M University-Commerce has plenty of activities and facilities on tap that are open to not just university students, but the community at-large.
Outdoor Adventure is a division of the Campus Recreation Department at A&M-Commerce, and operates out of offices located on Loop 178 in Commerce just west of the university campus. The modest structure off of the highway seems unassuming at first, but can introduce people to a world of outdoor activities that they may not have known were right under their noses in Hunt County.
As a whole, Outdoor Adventure is comprised of several facets both on-site and at other areas around campus. For example, the 45-ft. high rock climbing wall located at the university’s Morris Recreation Center is a part of Outdoor Adventure, and is arguably it’s most visible activity on offer. But there are plenty of other gems worth finding when considering what OA can offer.
The large OA grounds off of Loop 178 that stretch beyond the main building include an 18-hole disc golf course and the “Challenge Course” located near the edge of the property.
The disc golf course is notable not only for covering about 40 acres, but also due to its inclusion of moveable holes and separate configurations. All told, there are 72 possible configurations for the course.
Frisbees are available to rent for free for use on the course from Monday through Friday from 1 to 7 p.m., and the course is free to the public.
At the challenge course, several structures of wood and rope dominate the landscape. There are two separate courses, a low-element and high-element variant. The high-element course features many rope-climbing features, and also features a zipline.
Justin Bryant, who works as the assistant director for Outdoor Adventure, says that the challenge course is open to groups of 10 or more, and provides great team-building opportunities.
“Our groups that participate, especially on the low-element course, have many opportunities for team-building and learning to work as a cohesive unit,” Bryant said.
Bryant added that another popular event at the course is the moonlight zipline, where attendees can use the challenge course and zipline under cover of moonlight a few times a semester. He adds that they usually plan the events during a full moon for better effect.
Another aspect of of the OA stable is the bike trail. Located just slightly east on Loop 178 from the main building and across the highway, the trail is open to bicyclists and walkers as well. The trail is usually open at all times unless rainy conditions cause too much mud to form on the trail. Participants are asked to sign a one-time waiver, but from then on, when the gate is open, people can just come on in, says Bryant. Bicycles are also available for rental for free from Monday to Friday from 1 to 7 p.m.
Speaking of bicycles, the Outdoor Adventure building also features a full-service bike shop, one of the few of its kind in the region. In addition, many of the prices at the shop are kept low, as Bryant adds that the shop is used primarily as a teaching tool for students while repairs are made.
On top of all of that, OA also houses a gear shop, making things like camping gear, canoes, kayaks and more available for rent to the general public.
But it all doesn’t stay in Commerce, or even Hunt County for that matter. Outdoor Adventure also sponsors many trips for both students and community members, with the group taking a canoeing trip up to Broken Bow, Okla. recently before the writing of this article. Kellen Dion, a coordinator for Outdoor Adventure, says that they take roughly five to seven trips per semester.
“In addition to our trips during the school year, we are looking into starting day trips during the summer,” Dion said.
To Dion, the opportunity for education is what he says the biggest strength of Outdoor Adventure is.
“I really like the education aspect of it,” Dion said. “We are introducing the outdoors to a lot of people.”
Bryant seconded those thoughts, adding that he hopes people see the uniqueness of what OA can offer
“I feel like our land and our programming is unique to this area,” Bryant said. “People at the university often say that there’s nothing to do in Commerce, but there is plenty to do right here.”
The Outdoor Adventure Center is located on TX-Loop 178 in Commerce just west of the Highway 24 intersection. For more information, contact Outdoor Adventure at 903-886-5164.