The inaugural story camp in January was held at Gold Butte National Monument, which could shrink in size significantly at the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

KEEN Wants To Hear Your Public Lands Story

KEEN invites you on a public lands camping trip. Its goal? Simple: Share stories from diverse perspectives and deepen our understanding of what public lands mean to us.

Keen Day Camp public lands
The inaugural story camp in January was held at Gold Butte National Monument, which could shrink in size significantly at the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

An excellent storyteller keeps you on the edge of your seat around the campfire. The key to captivation? Enthusiasm, sincerity, and familiarity. Naturally, the folks who frequent a given landscape the most will have the richest stories to share. But they’re not always heard.

Cue “Story Camp” projects, an ongoing community event that brings people together on public lands across the country to share — and record — their stories about those lands.

Launched by KEEN Footwear, the mission is to harness the power of oral storytelling and help Americans reach a broader, deeper understanding of our public land usage nationwide.

Keen Day Camp public lands
Sutton Mountain

KEEN Story Camp on Public Lands

The day camps include outdoor activities: anything from hiking to paddling and fishing depending on the terrain. At the end of the day, backcountry dinner and campfire storytelling await campers. Speakers volunteer to tell their stories, which are recorded. The evening becomes a contributor-generated chronicle of that location’s history.

“We want to widen the tent of stories that we [as a national culture] know, which includes educating on different perspectives from diverse perspectives,” said Mark Steinbuck, KEEN grants and community specialist. Steinbuck’s role is within the brand’s corporate responsibility team. He tackles three goals: to give back, take action, and reduce impact in the supply chain.

Keen Day Camp public lands

Diverse Voices, Local Stories

“At Story Camp, we want indigenous voices, ATV users, miners, police officers, ranchers, and local users to take the microphone and fill the landscape up with their local stories about their personal history, recreation, experiences, work, and the ecology of those landscapes,” Steinbuck said.

The inaugural Story Camp kicked off in Nevada’s Gold Butte National Monument last January. Tomorrow, June 9, Oregon’s Sutton Mountain will host the second Story Camp.

Next, KEEN will host an event in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on September 8. Later, folks will gather in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest on October 6.

KEEN intends for the camps to be ongoing.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Addressing Controversy

Each location represents different public management plans, user interests, geographic regions, and controversial issues.

For example, Gold Butte National Monument is under review for potential reduction. Sutton Mountain is a proposed wilderness area, and sulfide-ore copper mining threatens the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. And Pisgah National Forest is currently creating a new forest management plan — which happens every 20 years.

“Each Story Camp is an on-site celebration of a landscape that’s threatened. Each landscape has something to gain by an increased participation and knowledge of that place from the public,” said Steinbuck.

KEEN will publish multimedia features on its website using the audio, photo, and video content captured from each session. That way, anyone can learn what the local stewards think and believe about that land.

Spurred By Monument Reductions

The idea for Story Camp surfaced in the wake of last year’s potential federal land grab. In April 2017, President Trump issued an executive order instructing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review 27 national monuments.

The list included Bears Ears and 1.7-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, which Trump reduced in size by 85 percent and 50 percent, respectively, last month.

Story Camp is open to the public and free of cost. KEEN plans to launch the Story Camp landing page on its website July 1, 2018.

RSVP for the next Story Camp, at Sutton Mountain, here. Want to camp? Sleep under the stars and wake up to a breakfast served by KEEN. (We can vouch: KEEN chefs are top-notch.)

Morgan Tilton

Staff Writer Morgan Tilton is an adventure journalist specializing in winter sports coverage, travel narratives, and outdoor industry news. A recipient of nearly a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards, when she’s not recovering from jungle expeditions or doing field research in far-out villages she’s usually trail running, mountain biking, river surfing, or splitboarding in Colorado’s San Juan and Elk Mountains, where she grew up and lives today.