Ottawa

Outdoor experience on loan at new gear library

A new library is set to open in Ottawa this summer, but it won't be lending books. Instead, the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library's shelves will be stocked with used skates and skis, hiking boots and soccer balls — a wide range of recreational equipment for people to borrow, all for free.

Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library giving everyone the chance to get outside and enjoy the National Capital Region

Outdoor enthusiast Chris Osler wants everyone to be able to take advantage of the region's many recreational opportunities. (Submitted by Chris Osler)

A new library is set to open in Ottawa this summer, but it won't be lending books.

Instead, the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library's shelves will be stocked with used skates and skis, hiking boots and soccer balls — a wide range of recreational equipment for people to borrow, all for free.

"It's really to create more equity around access to these kinds of activities," said outdoor enthusiast Chris Osler, who, along with a group of volunteers, is amassing all the sports and outdoor gear he can find. "They should be available to everyone."

It's part of integration, being familiar with stuff your friends are familiar with.- Robin Browne, 613-819 Black Hub

The idea, said Osler, is to give everyone a chance to take in the view from a lookout in the Gatineau Hills, or join friends for a skate along the Rideau Canal.

"There's a lot of people that would really like to try new things and learn new things and may not have the opportunity, the storage space or the funds to be able to try those things," said Osler.

New gear library aims to bring ‘equity’ to outdoor activities in Ottawa

4 months ago
0:52
Outdoor enthusiast Chris Osler is on a mission to source used outdoor gear for the new Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library, which aims to make the outdoors accessible to more people by lending equipment to residents. 0:52

The library is also on the lookout for such gently used items as binoculars and guide books for budding bird watchers.

The Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library is slated to open in June on Boyd Avenue, right beside the Ottawa Tool Library, which operates under a similar model.

"There's so many positive health outcomes that come from connecting with others outdoors," said Osler. "Mental health, physical health, community building ... learning a new skill gives you confidence."

Among the gear in stock at the library will be skates, so anyone can take a spin on the Rideau Canal Skateway. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

An inclusive initiative

Robin Browne, co-founder of 613-819 Black Hub, remembers enjoying camping with his family as a kid, but said he also recalls being the only non-white family at the campground. 

Browne said helping all children gain access to outdoor activities helps build community ties and a sense of belonging. 

Robin Browne is co-founder of 613-819 Black Hub. (Jean-Francois Poudrier/CBC)

"It's part of integration, being familiar with stuff your friends are familiar with," said Browne. "The library will help racialized kids have the chance to grab some skates and get out on the Rideau Canal, or try out some snow shoes. That will help them gain confidence and make those social connections that are so important."

Before it opens in June, however, the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library needs to bump up its inventory. On Saturday and Sunday, volunteers will be accepting curbside donations between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 887 Boyd Ave.

A new outdoor gear library is collecting donations to give more people a chance to enjoy life outdoors. 4:55

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization as the Ottawa Gear Library. It's the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library.
    May 14, 2021 11:11 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra Abma

Journalist

Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at sandra.abma@cbc.ca.

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