By Emma Castleberry
The Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association (CFAIA) has rebranded to become FIND Outdoors. FIND Outdoors is the nonprofit partner not only to the US Forest Service in operating the Cradle of Forestry Site in Pisgah National Forest but also to more than 20 recreation areas, campgrounds and visitor centers in multiple National Forests in North Carolina, Indiana and Georgia. In addition to operations at local campgrounds such as Black Mountain and Carolina Hemlocks, FIND Outdoors manages larger, day-use sites such as the Anna Ruby Falls and Brasstown Bald Recreation Areas in north Georgia. “We’re one of the oldest nonprofits in Western North Carolina with 48 years of work in this region,” says Adam DeWitte, vice president of development and communications for FIND Outdoors. “We have a mission of education and recreation at all of our sites, and we offer the public the chance to reconnect with our natural world through these managed sites— something that is so important with the current challenge that our world is facing.”
FIND is an acronym for Forest Inspired Nature Discovery. “This is what we’ve been doing for years,” says DeWitte, “but have been historically tied to the CFAIA name. It was extremely confusing to the public, who couldn’t differentiate between the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah and our nonprofit, which has been running these education and recreation sites since the early 1980s.” The name change and face lift allowed the organization to unify all of its sites under one goal: to help visitors and the public find their connection to the natural world, whether on public or private lands.
As visitor centers and recreation opportunities began to reopen during the pandemic, FIND Outdoors faced the unique task of balancing safety and crowd management with the mental and physical health benefits of public access to its sites. “Like other businesses in our country, we waited for the right and safe time to reopen on a limited basis,” says DeWitte. “We want to keep the experience of these sites exciting while maintaining social distancing and ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy.” FIND Outdoors also created new programming opportunities to meet the needs of this strange time, such as a “Virtual Forest Bathing” tour that engaged people from 21 states and seven different countries. The organization also completed work on its new Citizen Science Lab that offers scientific forestry learning opportunities to students of all ages.
FIND Outdoors hopes to resume normal programming, tours and educational opportunities at all of its sites in 2021. “The priority for us is the safety of the public, our staff and our visitors at all times,” says DeWitte. “But we’re hoping to resume as normal next year!”
For more information on managed sites or to make a donation to FIND Outdoors, please visit GoFINDOutdoors.org or call 828-883-FIND.