Leadership Class Concludes at Prescott Park

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The Chamber Leadership Class had its last class this year at the Prescott Park. If you haven’t been there yet, you absolutely must. Here’s an article about it in today’s paper.

A new outdoor obstacle course on Medford’s Roxy Ann Peak isn’t just another way for thrill-seekers to tackle a physical challenge.

“You also have emotional and intellectual fitness you can tap into,” says Erik Marter, co-owner of Synergo, which built the course.

The Prescott Park Challenge Course is a system of ropes, wires, swings, platforms and ladders — suspended 2 to 40 feet off the ground — among trees in the 1,740-acre city park. Opened in April, the course typically requires advance reservation by a large group, but two city-sponsored days this summer will give families and adults of all ages a chance to take the challenge.

“For the Rogue Valley, this was pretty special,” says Sheri Richmond-Getty, a Medford nurse who toured the park on its opening day. “I would be interested in seeing how it would push me.”

The course is designed to prod participants outside their comfort zones to achieve higher planes of mental and emotional health, according to Synergo. Navigated in a group, the course’s 15 elements enhance trust, cooperation, willingness to take positive risks, and to develop leadership skills. Certified Synergo employees facilitate the experience over several hours. The Tigard company operates a similar course by advance reservation at Earth Teach Forest Park near Ashland.

“Your local schools, nonprofits … businesses are realizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” says Marter. “It takes people out of a stuffy classroom … and gets them outside doing something.”

“I came up here thinking I was going to bring my kids,” says Richmond-Getty. “I thought this would be a fun thing for a group to do — a group of friends.”

The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County furnished the first official group to use the course. About 30 members capped off a nine-month leadership program at Prescott Park in mid-May.

“We thought, ‘Why not finish with a bang?’ ” says Brad Hicks, chamber president and chief executive. “It was an opportunity to find out what I was and wasn’t afraid of.”

Recalling the “leap of faith” gave chamber member and leadership student Bill Macy a rush more than a week later. While fellow participants secured the rope attached to Macy’s waist harness, he jumped from a platform high in the trees to catch and swing from a trapeze.

“You don’t have a clue until you go through it,” says Macy. “You really have to be open to personal growth and exploration.”

Skeptical of businesses claiming they can change lives, Macy says the challenge course made him a believer. He not only applied its lessons immediately to his job as director of Avamere Health & Fitness Club in Medford. He’s also trying to organize a group trip among club members. Most are adults 40 and older, but nearly all would be physically capable of using the challenge course, he says.

“Physical limitations are, a lot of times, self-created,” says Macy, adding that extreme physical fitness can, in situations like the challenge course, “almost be a handicap for people.”

“We work with professional athletes, and we work with people in drug- and alcohol-treatment centers … and people with disabilities,” says Marter.

Synergo imposes virtually no physical criteria other than the ability to walk unassisted on a variety of terrain and surfaces around the challenge course, as well as the capacity for following instructions and directions. Participants must sign a waiver with the company.

In general, participants should weigh between 60 and 300 pounds. More important than size and stature is whether harnesses and helmets fit properly to ensure participation in the course’s high elements. Synergo recommends wearing comfortable clothing appropriate for the weather and securely fastened, closed-toe shoes.

Some 300 park visitors for the city’s April preview day had the chance to test-drive three elements: the “leap of faith,” the “diversity trail,” similar to a tightrope stretched about 2 feet off the ground, and the “giant swing,” which, as its name implies, soars 40 feet above the ground revealing a panoramic view of the valley.

A peerless vantage point, the giant swing also serves as a metaphor for emotional release, says Marter.

“What’s something in your life that you need to release and get rid of?” he asks. “It’s a big, cathartic experience.”

“I found it supremely exhilarating,” says Macy. “You’re engaging in outdoor activity in a beautiful, protected area.”

More than two times the size of Medford’s other parks combined, Prescott’s remote, hilltop location means it gets only a tiny fraction of the others’ visitors. Tucked into the trees off a gravel road, the course is not obvious to passersby and can’t be operated unless Synergo staff is on scene.

Reserving the course for a group of up to 15 costs $600 to $1,200, with price determined by the complexity of desired activities. Groups must call Synergo directly at 503-746-6646.

City-sponsored days, July 14 and Aug. 18, reduce the cost to $45 for adults and $30 for children. Call city of Medford Parks & Recreation at 541-774-2400 to register. More lower-cost, challenge-course days likely will be scheduled later in the year, weather permitting, says Rich Rosenthal, the city’s recreation superintendant.

“It’s not just for thrill-seekers,” says Rosenthal. “There’s something for everyone there.”


Charlie’s Angels Spotted at Leadership Class

Left to right, Leadership 2012-2013 participants, Kitty Powell, Nicole Richey, Paulette Davis. Photo taken at April’s SWAT Day, led by the Medford Police Department.

Leadership Project Featured in Mail Tribune

By Nils Holst
Mail Tribune

The Medford Gospel Mission will soon have a community garden, thanks to the efforts of the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and members of the Chamber’s 2011-12 Leadership Program.

The Main Ingredient Garden, named after the mission’s other well-established venture, the Main Ingredient Restaurant, is intended to teach community members the essentials of gardening and supplement community donations the mission receives, in addition to fostering a sense of community among project volunteers.

“I am truly thankful that the chamber chose our project,” said Jason Bull, associate director of the Medford Gospel Mission, in an email interview. “Without the Medford Chamber’s support, we may or may not have ever built a garden. If we did, it would have taken much longer to build and open.”

Bull explained that the garden would supplement community food donations and allow the mission to serve fresh organic produce at the restaurant. He says the garden also will serve as a classroom for community members to learn how to grow and cook their own food, as well as provide a place to grow it.

The garden will be in what is an empty, fenced-off asphalt lot. To build the approximately 4,200 square feet of raised and ground-level planting beds, program participants will have to drill through the asphalt and remove it, chunk by chunk.

“It’s a community project that’s spearheaded by the leadership class,” said Fylvia Kline, vice president of communications and programs at the chamber. She explained that program participants usually enlist the help of the community, getting volunteers and contributions from local businesses and organizations, such as Adroit Construction and Asante Health System.

Each year several dozen community members, most of them local businesspeople and professionals, sign up for the chamber’s leadership program. The program costs $900 for chamber members and $1,200 for nonmembers. The eight-month program is designed to expose class participants to the resources the Rogue Valley has to offer, as well as provide networking opportunities and teach creative problem-solving skills.

Each class selects one project from the dozens of community proposals submitted, based on need and the viability of the project, and then spends the next few months fundraising and securing resources. Last year the chamber built a classroom for the Southern Oregon Child Study and Treatment Center boys home, which previously had to set up and take down a makeshift classroom in the living room of its group home every day.

This year, the program’s 31 participants were split between two proposals — one from the Maslow Project for an interior storeroom to store food for its clients, and another from the Medford Gospel Mission for a community garden. The garden won out at a vote of 16-15.

“One of the things that really appealed to the class with the Medford Gospel Mission proposal was the dignity of the human being,” said Kline. “They’re not just a soup kitchen … . It’s a restaurant style, where people who don’t have food or can’t afford it can sit down and eat.”

“The Medford Gospel Mission has been serving three meals a day, every day, for over 50 years, mostly with donated food from generous people in our community,” said Bull. “The Main Ingredient Garden idea grew out of the idea of the Main Ingredient Restaurant.

“We were aiming to operate a restaurant that was run by friendly people, who cared about serving their guests great tasting food in a welcoming environment, absolutely free of charge. This would certainly make a difference in the lives of people in our community, that can use a break from these tough financial times and provide a place where the community could come and give back by serving our guests night in and night out.”

“(The project) nurtures a community culture that is not common in this current economic time,” said Kline. “A project like this gives the family the help that they need while not stripping them of their dignity.”