Inner City Outings
In 1976, the Sierra Club took a successful program idea from its San Francisco Bay Chapter and established a nationwide Inner City Outings Program (called ICO for short) to provide safe and fun wilderness trips to low-income youth, physically disabled individuals, and others who have limited access to the outdoors.
Today, the Club has 50 volunteer-run ICO groups that conduct more than 800 outings for approximately 14,000 youth each year. By helping these participants discover the beauty of wild lands, ICO helps the Club build support for environmental protection in urban communities across the country, supporting John Muir's assertion that people who experience wilderness firsthand are much more likely to preserve it for future generations.
ICO At A Glance: Enjoy this printable, full-color two-page overview of our program.
Below are a few examples of how ICO groups and their partner community agencies are reaching out to young people:
- Birmingham ICO youth from the Interfaith Hospitality Home (a service provider for homeless families) and the Kingston Neighborhood Association (a church youth group affiliated with a neighborhood association) frequently team up with the Cahaba River Society to study macro-invertebrates in the Little Cahaba River and explore the wonders of this local river ecosystem.
- Minnesota ICO leaders typically run monthly outings for its participating youth from the Hmong American Partnership, St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts, and CommonBond Communities (a community organization dedicated to building affordable housing) in the local state parks and lakes that surround the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Outings include: cross country skiing and camping at Wild River State Park; canoeing at Lake Maria State Park; bicycling at Lake Calhoun; and orienteering activities at Lake Elmo.
- San Jose ICO has worked with youth from the Seven Trees Elementary School for eight years. Leaders regularly take the youth on hikes in the numerous regional and state parks surrounding San Jose. Special outings include trips to see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park or a ferry ride to Angel Island State Park in the San Francisco Bay.
- A popular New Jersey ICO trip is to Gateway National Recreation Area, just within an hour of the agencies served: Hoboken High School in Hoboken, Boys and Girls Club in Jersey City, Tri-City Peoples Corp (social service agency) in East Orange, and Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless in Elizabeth. Youth enjoy going to this barrier island to collect and examine marine life, and then release the creatures back into the bay, followed by a swim in the nearby ocean.