History of Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW)
BOW is the brainchild of Christine Thomas. She conceived the idea when she realized that women in particular were not being given the opportunity to learn outdoors skills in a non-threatening, supportive atmosphere. BOW’s are now occurring in 44 states and 8 Canadian Provinces. Texas is the most active state with 5 workshops a year, with Florida and California closing in with 4 workshops each a year.
Christine L. Thomas – Biography
Christine Thomas is Associate Dean and professor of resource management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources. In addition to role as a university educator, Thomas has developed a program that teaches women outdoor skills, “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman.” She has a B.S. in biology from Central Michigan University, an M.S.in Water Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a Ph.D. in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the first female tenured full professor in the college and teaches “Resource Policy and Law,” “Natural Resources and Public Relations” and “Integrated Resource Management.”
BOW at Texas Parks and Wildlife from Steve Hall
* 1st Workshop Oct. ’93 BOW – (Brownwood) Started by Christine Thomas and Steve Hall
* National BOW Advisory Group – Steve Hall (’93 to present)
* 2nd Workshop Apr. ’94 BOW – (Pineywoods) Steve Hall, Debbie Bunch and Vicki Fite
* 3rd Workshop May ‘ 94 BOW – (Hunt – Waldemar) “
* 4th Workshop Oct. ’94 BOW – (Brownwood) Steve, Debbie, Karl Cloninger
* Karl has been to everyone since….(he was hired as education’s outreach coordinator in 1994)
* Karl started the TOWN Concept and delegated to Debbie Bunch the Coordinator role in 1995/96
TOWN CHAPTERS IN ORDER OF START DATE (Dallas seems to have had 2 chapters at different times)
Houston -Sandi Webb – began in 1993-1994
Houston TOWN was the original TOWN chapter, organized and built by the sweat of brow of Karen Mauro, Patti Carothers, Monica Myska, Terry Webb, Camilla McDonald and Debra Smart. It was started in 1993-1994 after the six ladies got together at a BOW with Karl Cloninger and Debbie Bunch and came up with the idea of a home town group. At that time it was thought that the ladies at BOW learned skills, went home and didn’t further these skills as they had no other ladies to do the activities with. Subsequently, a networking organization was conceived and the six ladies went home to birth it. These six ladies labored for many years to organize, fund, promote and birth this organization and should be lauded for all their hard work. Houston now as three active groups that often times do activities together. TOWN in Houston and subsequently the State of Texas would not be where it is today without those tireless ladies efforts and their willingness to run with the concept.
Dallas – Sharon Fahlberg – this incarnation began officially in March 1999
The Dallas chapter of TOWN began officially in March 1999. We consider ourselves just babies. Here is how we got started. My twin sister Suzi Murphy found out about TOWN and BOW from a friend of her husbands several years ago. She was very involved in the Mid-Cities group and he relayed some information about trips etc. to us. Unfortunately, we could never make a meeting due to the location and time of the meeting so it took awhile to find out about BOW. We registered for our first BOW workshop and headed to Balcones Springs in August 1998. We were so impressed by the workshop and the people there. It was great to see all these women having a wonderful time participating in outdoor sports that we had to learn more about TOWN.
We spoke to Debbie Bunch who said at one time there was a Dallas chapter, but it had moved to the Mid-Cities several years ago and currently there was not a Dallas group. Then she said how would we like to start one. Our initial reaction was NO – we don’t know anything about it. However, the more we thought about, the more we decided this was something Dallas needed to have. We knew there were other women out there who felt like us: women who loved the outdoors but hadn’t a clue where to go in the Dallas area and needed others to “play” with. Debbie put us in touch with Malee Jones who had volunteered earlier to help out with a Dallas TOWN group, but didn’t want to start it by herself. The three of us met (Sharon, Suzi and Malee) and the rest is history.
I first went to Oshman’s in Dallas and talked to the manager (Jim Jones) about the group. He was totally supportive of what we were doing and gave us the basketball court for our meetings. He also helps us to promote TOWN whenever he can. Once we got our meeting location, I set up an account at the bank for our group, printed flyers and distributed them to local outfitters. TPWD did an initial mailing to workshop participants in our area telling them about the new TOWN group. At the first TOWN meeting we had 25 people show up and 23 joined on the spot.
Since that initial meeting, we have grown to about 115 members. We have obtained our 501 (c) 7 non-profit status and continue to promote TOWN through local retailers and local publications. Our group continues to meet monthly at Oshman’s. We print a monthly newsletter that includes upcoming activities, a review of past activities highlighting member accomplishments, a photo album from current trips, outdoor tips and a conservation corner.
I think one of the reasons that our group has been successful is the variety of activities we try and offer each month. Our group’s age range is from the late 20’s to 70’s. We do some “easy” activities like touring herb gardens, star watches, wildflower hikes, camping and outdoor cooking to more rigorous adventures including mountain climbing and mountain biking. We often bring in experts and hold workshops on kayaking, canoeing and fly-fishing. The majority of activities take place within a two-hour radius of the Dallas area, but we also venture out to more exotic locales. This year we camped and hiked in Big Bend and climbed Mount Elbert in Colorado. We are currently planning a kayak trip to Vancouver Island for next summer.
Austin -Constance Whiston – began in the winter of 1997
The Austin TOWN Chapter was started in the winter of 1997. The concept of Texas Outdoors Woman Network was introduced by Debbie Bunch at the Brick Oven Restaurant on Red River one chilly winter night. There were about three women, including myself who volunteered to start an Austin TOWN chapter and within a couple of months I became the lone TOWN leader as the volunteers dropped by the wayside.
Our meetings were located at Austin Outdoor Gear & Guidance, owned by John Van Ness who kindly permitted us to use his back room as a meeting place. There were about three years of small attendance and outings scattered during the warm seasons. Our group had several kayak trips on the Llano and Guadalupe Rivers. Meeting attendance ran around 5 to 15 women as our small group began to grow. Rebecca Jordan offered to post an Austin TOWN web site that stimulated new growth for us.
During 1998 I began to get discouraged as the attendance started to decrease and the lack of assistance made coordinating a challenge. The greatest gift to the Austin Chapter of Texas Outdoors Woman Network came when Amelia Greene volunteered to create a membership roster and newsletter. Not long after Amelia stepped in we began taking membership dues, had a new web site (thanks to Amelia) and a new membership booklet (thanks to Claire Count), relocated to Luby’s Cafeteria on North Loop Blvd and as of October 2000 we have a membership of around 60 members.
Constance continues to recruit speakers, facilitate the monthly meetings and lead outings for a growing group of wonderful outdoor women. Jo Gayle Wernli takes photos of our speakers and is creating a history book. Amelia leads regular Wednesday paddle adventures on Town Lake and our membership consists of a very enthusiastic bunch of women who have fun, network and learn from each other. Leading our Austin Chapter into adulthood has been an educational and rewarding experience for me. I applaud all women who get outside and try. Each of you can pat yourself on the back in congratulations for you have taken the first step in becoming a Texas Outdoor Woman.
San Antonio – Karen Kott – began in 1998
In May of 1998, Janie Thomas and I attended our first BOW outing–to the Prude Ranch, not knowing exactly what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to participate in such a well-organized program with excellent and enthusiastic instructors who made everyone feel so comfortable. When Debbie Bunch talked about the emerging TOWN groups, we were surprised to find there was no such group in San Antonio. Janie and I decided to form the S an Antonio Chapter, and in September 1998, we had our first chapter meeting, with over 30 initial attendees.
Our group has been a very active group, self initiating many activities, and over the past two years a strong core of approximately 40 women are currently San Antonio “TOWNies.” As the nature of any group, members come and go. Last year we had over eighty members–but the group that remains is committed to the concept of TOWN. We have enthusiastic ladies who head various “chairs”: social, newsletter, membership, treasurer, and speaker. We meet once a month to network about outdoor events and have a monthly speaker on a broad range of topics. Our ladies enjoy refreshments after a long day, so a restaurant atmosphere works best for our meetings.
Over the past two years some of the activities our group has self-initiated include: numerous hikes, cookouts and nature walks, a hunter ed/camping weekend at the Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area, a build your own walking stick workshop, overnight campouts, shooting clinics, fishing clinics, and a Big Bend Ranch State Park TOWN trail-ride–the first ever all-women’s ride held there. The San Antonio Chapter coordinated and hosted the First Statewide TOWN Coordinators’ Conference in January 2000 with the assistance of Deirdre Hisler at Government Canyon State Natural Area.
Although our chapter has sponsored a number of activities, emphasis is placed on encouraging members to connect with others to pursue mutual interests independent of chapter-organized events. Many have participated in activities through the state and country, and share experiences with the group at meetings.
With recent agreement on the statewide TOWN logo, the San Antonio Chapter has designed its logo (the Alamo image surrounding the TOWN logo) which will be displayed on T-shirts for the October Outing.
San Marcos – Amy Sugeno – began in February, 2000
The San Marcos chapter of TOWN was started by Amy Sugeno at the public library in San Marcos. The chapter currently meets at Amy’s house but occasionally other members’ houses. It is growing slowly due to Amy’s persistence and efforts and by having guest speakers. Their main activities have included fly fishing and nature-watching. Upcoming outings include dove hunting, orienteering, and birdwatching
El Paso – Linda Courtice
Linda has had a hard time finding other women to form a TOWN group. She continues to plan events such as attending the New Mexico BOW offerings, but has not had much luck in getting other members to attend these events. She will be returning to Alaska within the next year or so. Hopefully, someone in the El Paso area can take her place.