Kicking off DelVal Outdoors

Site creator Kyle Bagenstose writes about his on, off, and then on again relationship with nature, and why he’s launching the site.

The Delaware River on a September morning, at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in NEPA. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Many of my earliest memories involve the outdoors. I grew up in Sinking Spring, Pa., just outside Reading, in a neighborhood on the very edge of suburbia. My sense of place is always centered on that land: rolling green hills perfect for biking and exploring, trips to ponds and creeks for fishing, and walks to cool, shallow streams in search of crawfish.

In elementary school and junior high it was the Boy Scouts, sleep away camps, and visits to Hawk Mountain and the Poconos where I learned to shoot, sail, hike, and otherwise enjoy nature.

My later teenage years took a turn away from all that. Academic, athletic, and social interests predominated. I largely forgot about the great outdoors. The big city of Philadelphia came calling, and the journalism program at Temple University became my central focus.

But after graduating in 2010 and starting a career in the field, an old instinct started to pull me toward the greens and browns and blues of the outside world. Suddenly I was compelled to try landing whatever I could out of the Manayunk Canal with an old fishing pole. I dug through my parents’ basement, dusting off a musty tent not used in perhaps a decade. New hiking boots and moisture-wicking gear were purchased, along with a membership card from the Conshohocken REI. It felt like a passport.

The love snowballed. Hiking became backpacking, first overnights and then long weekends. Quick kayak trips on quiet lakes evolved into long slogs down the Schuylkill and Delaware. The outdoors once again became my center.

Along the way, I was fortunate to mesh my hobbies with my career. In 2015, the Bucks County Courier Times was hiring for an environmental reporter on its investigative team. The editor took a chance on me, and for the next four years I reported as much as I could on environmental issues in Bucks County, Burlington County, and the greater Delaware Valley. This too snowballed, leading to an opportunity to cover the Northeast for The USA TODAY Network, which I took in November 2019.

But I remained in Philly and my passion for covering the environment in the region did too. Enter my launching of this independent journalism project, DelVal Outdoors. I hope to grow this website into a useful publication, and perhaps even community, focused on the natural world in and around Philly. My initial goal is to cover both conservation (a squishy gray term that I define as protecting the environment and its resources from drastic human damage) and recreation.

But I imagine the seed of this project that I’m now planting may grow in unpredictable and unexpected ways. For now, my focus will simply be to water it, using my instinct and editorial judgment, until it hopefully forms into something useful and maybe even beautiful.

It’s a privilege to be able to do this, and I thank you for reading.

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