Started in 2019, 815 Outside was inspired by the fact that Winnebago County has over 20,000 acres of green space between preserves, parks and paths, many of which are underutilized. As the area’s comprehensive resource for outdoor recreation, we invite people to find purpose and new perspective when visiting public lands and to develop healthy lifestyle habits. 815 Outside began leading free community hikes during Summer 2020, and realized just how many people want to get outside, but are unsure where to start or who to go with. To encourage those who do not already get outside regularly 815 Outside has started to partner with local healthcare providers to institute nature prescriptions, building on the ideas of Park Rx America.
Find your place to get outside today!
Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan
815 Outside’s mission is to provide information, resources, and experiences that empower people to learn about their local natural
spaces and become more comfortable and confident exploring the outdoors. In 2022, the 815 Outside partners developed a five-year strategic plan to help guide our efforts to achieve our vision of a diverse community of people who feel a sense of belonging in local natural spaces
and engage in outdoor recreation for their health and well-being. We are excited to share that plan with you here: 815 Outside Strategic Plan: 2022-2026.
We host and promote free events to welcome and guide people in nature. For those who don’t want to go out alone, the 815 Outside AmeriCorps member leads group walks, hikes and bike rides at parks and preserves year round! Sign up here.
The human world and natural world are not two separate things, but are intricately connected. When we observe nature, we learn more about ourselves. At our guided hikes, participants often say, “I never knew this place was here and I have lived here for years!” or “I can’t wait to come back here with my family.” Once the spark is discovered, people return to their favorite forest preserves or parks and begin to grow an appreciation and concern for these green spaces. Building connection between residents and local public lands is the foundation for an environmentally sustainable region.
Countless scientific studies show connections between nature and positive health benefits. This body of research is growing, and the strongest findings prove spending time outdoors supports mental well-being. We know nature is good for us. Now, how can we help people make a small change that will have a big impact on their life?
Spending time outdoors is not meant to replace medical advice, therapy, or medication, but to be a complimentary part of a patient’s treatment plan. Connecting with nature on a regular basis is a strong form of preventative medicine, similar to eating a balanced diet and exercising. A nudge from the doctor can be a powerful inspiration to add more nature to your week. Check back soon for more information on this growing program.
We cannot ignore the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. 815 Outside was started with the mission to empower local individuals and families to experience nature and feel comfortable and confident in the outdoors, and to do this we must recognize and address barriers to outdoor recreation. You can learn more about local and national programs working to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ folks and people with disabilities in nature at Get Inspired.
815 Outside not only encourages outdoor recreation, but also ecological restoration opportunities. Climate change is threatening the health of natural areas and our ability to experience and enjoy nature. The 815 Outside partner organizations offer numerous ways for people to support the environment, including Community Science programs with Severson Dells Nature Center, invasive species removal with the Natural Land Institute and creek clean ups with Nature at the Confluence. Sign up to get involved here.