WILLIAMSBURG — Maria Koschmeder loves the great outdoors — and she wants to help others learn to love it, too.
That’s why Koschmeder, a former naturalist with the Iowa County Conservation Board, started Walking Stick Adventures in January 2010.
“Walking Stick Adventures is an outdoor education and recreation business — a lot of people call them eco-tourism businesses,” Koschmeder said. “We provide services to get people outside.”
Originally called Kids in Nature LLC, Koschmeder changed the name — and expanded the business — once she realized adults need to play outside, too. Her goal is to help people relax, get dirty and have fun.
“During my time on the conservation board, I created dozens of environmental and conservation-education programs for students that entertain and educate them about Iowa’s natural resources,” Koschmeder said.
She also was responsible for producing campground and public events, quarterly newsletters, a radio program and traveling displays. Still, it was the education aspect of her job that Koschmeder loved the most.
“I realized this is what I love, what I was meant to do,” she said.
Koschmeder’s programs vary by the number of participants, their ages and the season. For example, Walking Stick Adventures in Amana is a program for adults and families looking for outdoor adventures and a re-connection to the natural world, with hands-on nature exploration and discovery, while the Iowa’s Secret Places Series is geared toward adults who want to explore the state’s lesser-known natural landscapes.
K Saville of Coralville, a Walking Stick participant, called the series fascinating.
“We went to Price Creek last week, and (Maria) gathered several water samples,” she recalled.
Saville didn’t expect to see much this time of year, but she was surprised by the number of living things taking refuge in the water.
“It was intriguing to watch,” Saville said.
Koschmeder also offers weekend programs for families and youth groups at her Williamsburg farm. These programs include building bluebird houses in March, going on a wild-edibles hike in June and kayaking on her pond in July.
Koschmeder’s farm pond also is available for daily rentals or overnight camping.
“There are families who want to experience camping without the hassle,” Koschmeder noted. “We provide the tents, the fishing tackle, kayaks, canoe and life jackets, fire rings and fire wood.
“All they have to do is bring fishing bait, sleeping bags and food.”
Koschmeder said the past two years have been a learning curve, as she continues to create programs based on customer feedback and interest.
“I just keep trying different things to figure out what people want,” she said.