Fishing and Fresh Air Leads to Fresh Perspectives
At the heart of TAPS’ mission is peer support, TAPS Outdoor Programs is working to ensure that every survivor knows that they are not alone in the wilderness of their grief through the expansion of our accessible experiences in nature.
In partnership with the National Park Trust, an organization designed to advance public parks, lands, and waters as spaces that are welcoming and accessible to every person in every community, TAPS is connecting our surviving military families to the very lands their loved ones swore to protect and defend.
With events in both our nation’s National Forests and National Parks, our families have a wide variety of opportunities across the nation to heal alongside each other and the landscapes that we call home.
In 2021, TAPS and the National Park Trust brought families to the trails of California’s Sierra National Forest, to the rivers of Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest, and to the majestic landscapes of Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.
Expanding our reach in 2022, TAPS and the National Park Trust fostered stronger bonds in the Coconino National Forest during our spring and fall Women’s Empowerment retreats. The team hosted the Visitor Information Services and Heritage Supervisor from the Red Rock Ranger District who presented on the connection between the landscape's geology and what artists call the negative space around it, drawing attention to what created the changes shapes of geology. Through learning about the impact of wind, water, and time on the environment, survivors explored who they are in the present moment, what life was before, and the journey that brought them to where they are today.
Through TAPS Outdoor programming, survivors, their peers on staff and our partners and volunteers work together to create spaces to explore connections made through ecological metaphors and both the experiences of being in and doing activities in nature. When we disconnect from our daily thoughts and routines, we allow space for new thoughts, new patterns and new relationships to blossom. This purposeful time in nature opens our minds and hearts to perspectives our daily lives cannot provide.
The National Park Trust is honored to work with TAPS not only because of their incredible impact and life-changing programs,” says Ivan Levin, the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications at National Park Trust, “but also because of the innovative ways they are embracing our country’s public parks, lands, and waters to help with a survivor’s grieving process. Thanks to TAPS, military survivors have the opportunity to experience some of America’s most amazing natural places while fishing, camping, paddling, and more.”
Through the rest of 2022 and into 2023, families will engage in our nation’s national parks through a series of fly-fishing activities, provided in partnership with both the National Park Trust and Trout Unlimited.
Trout Unlimited (TU) Chapters across the country are volunteering their time to both educate and guide survivors in fly-fishing experiences from TAPS Togethers in the Upper Chattahoochee Recreation Area of Georgia and on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to multi-day experiences in Olympic National Park and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and more to come this fall and next spring!
Trout Unlimited has been a long-time supporter of TAPS, including guiding our surviving men in Montana on fly-fishing experiences on retreats. Trout Unlimited works to engage communities across the nation in repairing and renewing our rivers, streams and other waters to ensure future generations can experience the joy of the wild and native trout and salmon and the majesty of our nation’s natural environments.
“TU’s volunteers are a service-minded, fishy crew,” says Beverly Smith who works as TU’s Vice President of Volunteer Operations. “As anglers, we understand that there’s just something magical that can happen when standing in a cold, clean river with a rod in hand. As volunteers, we love nothing more than sharing that with others, but especially with TAPS participants.”
One surviving mother, who took part in the TAPS Togethers fly-fishing event in the Upper Chattahoochee Recreation Area of Georgia, shared: “This was my son’s favorite pastime and he always talked about taking us fly-fishing with him. I had so much fun here today with my daughter and granddaughter, his sister and niece. It really felt like he was here with us, right here close to home.”
Through this partnership with the National Park Trust and Trout Unlimited, TAPS is designing experiences that immerse families in both nearby nature and wild landscapes in our nation’s National Parks and Forests, providing meditative and recreational opportunities — both therapeutic and to foster skill building — that can translate into regular leisure activities, and become coping skills for a lifetime.
Peer-to-peer connections, a healing and supportive community, and meaningful experiences in nature can be found closer to home than you might think, and TAPS Outdoors is here to help you find them.