Base Camp Cullowhee finds new home at Campus Recreation Center

Base Camp Cullowhee student workers Johnathan Wallen (left), a junior engineering major from Greensboro, and Lia Plankenhorn (right), a senior anthropology major from Fort Mill, South Carolina, help place outdoor gear in its new home at the Campus Recreation Center.

Base Camp Cullowhee student workers Johnathan Wallen (left), a junior engineering major from Greensboro, and Lia Plankenhorn (right), a senior anthropology major from Fort Mill, South Carolina, help place outdoor gear in its new home at the Campus Recreation Center.

Packing up 12 kayaks, 12 canoes and 10 rafts, along with a ton of outdoor gear, and moving it across campus was actually the easy part.

It was the unloading of dozens of boxes, figuring out where things would go in their new home, and deciding how best to efficiently run their new operation that proved most challenging for Western Carolina University’s associate director of outdoor programs, Josh Whitmore, and his staff at Base Camp Cullowhee, WCU’s outdoor activities organization. Following spring semester, BCC staff packed up their belongings from their previous home in Brown Building and moved into new digs at the Campus Recreation Center.

The move coincided with the planned renovation of Brown Building, but was prompted by BCC moving from under A.K. Hinds University Center administration to Campus Recreation and Wellness, said Shauna Sleight, director of Campus Recreation and Wellness.

“I think it’s a really positive fit for outdoor programs to be under Campus Recreation and Wellness,” Sleight said. “That is in line with most universities nationwide. I think the move overall increases the visibility of Base Camp Cullowhee.”

As a unit of the University Center, Whitmore said, Base Camp operated mostly on its own. The move has allowed BCC to integrate into the structure of Campus Recreation and Wellness, he said.

“The fit is good in the way that the types of things we do and the mission of our Base Camp fits really closely with Campus Recreation in general,” Whitmore said. “When we were a part of the University Center, they understood what we did, but that probably didn’t match as closely to the general mission of the University Center activities world as it does with the Campus Rec Center.”

Whitmore and his assistant director of outdoor programs, Jeremiah Haas, spent the summer trying to figure out how best to organize everything into a workable operation at the Campus Recreation Center. For starters, the university built a boat shed between the Recreation Center and the University Center, which Whitmore said is the first purpose-built facility for BCC in his 10 years at WCU.

Inside the Recreation Center is where staff members had to organize all of the other outdoor items BCC rents out on a daily basis.

“We have mountains of equipment and it’s getting daily use,” Whitmore said. “The organization and operations of making all that happen is kind of complicated. We needed to have a workable space that is efficient and is very friendly for use.”

A new adventure shop, where students, faculty and staff can rent outdoor equipment or sign up for trips, is located inside the Recreation Center. Some artwork is in the works to make the adventure shop and BCC more visible, Sleight said.

New services that BCC will provide include two outdoor do-it-yourself bicycle repair stands on campus – one near the WCU trail system trailhead adjacent to the softball field, the other next to the Recreation Center. Various tools on cables will be attached to the stand, along with a pump, and will be available 24 hours a day.

Also new this fall will be a hammock stand for BCC programming and collaborations. Eagles Nest Outfitters, an Asheville-based company that sells ENO hammocks, donated a portable ENO pod, which will accommodate up to three hammocks.

“Hammocking has become an activity on college campuses,” Whitmore said. “Attaching them to buildings and light poles is generally discouraged by university facilities. We can take the pod to events on campus and put it up so students can hang their hammocks on it without breaking facility rules.”

BCC also is assisting a student group associated with the Office of Residential Living to develop a plan for some potential permanent hammock stand options to provide students with designated places to hang hammocks.

Haas, who came to WCU in January, said he hopes to develop a more refined and concrete trip leader training program for student staff members, who lead outdoor adventure trips. He also hopes BCC’s new location will further enhance WCU’s reputation as the No. 1 outdoor adventure college in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

“In the few months that I spent up at Brown, a lot of students didn’t always know we existed up there,” Haas said. “I think being more in a central part of campus, students are going to know we’re here. Given that the rec center is a popular place, we will maybe attract a

different type of student or a different population of students, faculty and staff that we may not have attracted up at Brown.”

For more information about BCC and its programs, call 828-227-7069 or email