Dedicated to elevating the voices of people of color in the outdoor industry, this page is meant to help people understand the barriers to participation in outdoor recreation and promote organizations that are working for greater inclusion.
Understanding Barriers to Participation
Many outdoor enthusiasts genuinely believe that access to public lands is just and equitable. There is no screening process, no hurdles to jump through, and often no fee to participate. Just show up and hike. How could it be any more open and inclusive?
The truth is that economic, social, and cultural barriers provide very real obstacles to outdoor engagement for many people of color. Distance to outdoor recreational opportunities, lack of public transit options, and stereotypes about who “belongs” in the outdoors are all obstacles as real as concrete walls for many people. If you have any doubt about the reality of these obstacles, take some time to explore the well-researched resources below:
Diversity in the Great Outdoors: Is Everyone Welcome in America’s Parks and Public Lands?
Organizations Breaking Down Barriers
There are many ways to connect with nature, from trail building to outdoor education to grassroots agriculture initiatives. All of these different ways of connecting with nature ensure that, as a society, we are building a robust coalition of outdoor enthusiasts who can speak to the value of nature on many fronts.
The organizations listed below are leaders in making sure that the joys of nature belong to everyone. Most of them are led by people of color. Some are local to the New York and New Jersey area, while some operate nation-wide. We encourage you to explore their missions, participate in their programs, and support their continuing operation.
Positive experiences in the outdoors, at any stage of life, are critical in shaping a love of the outdoors. These organizations focus on outdoor excursions, hikes, and volunteer activities along the trails we all share.
GirlTrek: Healthy Black Women and Girls
With nearly 800,000 members and counting, GirlTrek is the largest health movement and nonprofit for Black women and girls in the country. GirlTrek encourages Black women to use radical self-care and walking as the first practical step to leading healthier, more fulfilled lives. GirlTrek is on a mission to inspire one million Black women to walk in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives by the end of 2020 and it all starts with taking the pledge at GirlTrek.org.
From advocacy including protecting the Grand Canyon from uranium mining, and pushing for compre-hensive legislation like the Great American Outdoors Act, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO) connects a love for the land to opportunities to advocate for all the things the land provides – clean water, clean air, wildlife, and landscapes to enjoy.
Our connection to the outdoors informs our advocacy, and using our platform to ensure Hispanic voices are heard so that we have a seat at the table is more critical than ever.
Participate with HECHO by joining our Digital Advocacy Network to act on environmental issues that af-fect our communities, follow us on social media, and subscribe to our newsletter.
New York State Outdoor Education Association
Sierra Club: NYC Inspiring Connections Outdoors
For many of us, a love of the outdoors came from early-life experiences. These outdoor education programs specifically endeavor to extend those experiences to children who otherwise would not have access to them.
Free Forest School (NYC Chapter)
Backyard Basecamp, Inc. intends to respectfully and sustainably reconnect marginalized people to nature. Our 10 acre land reclamation project, BLISS Meadows, will accomplish this by building community greenspace, increasing access to healthy food, practicing community science and conservation, demonstrating sustainable animal husbandry, and providing culturally responsive environmental education.
Outdoors Empowered Network is a national network of community-led, youth-centered outdoor education groups that are dedicated to increasing access and diversity in the outdoors through gear libraries and outdoor leadership training.
The Outdoor Promise mission is to encourage urban youth and families to appreciate the natural world and hone their outdoor leadership skills to have safe and fun adventures. We are committed to increasing access to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship opportunities. We believe that we cannot ask people to protect a nature they have not experienced. Outdoor Promise offers transformational outdoor experiences, outdoor education programs, and environmental stewardship opportunities to help create a greater appreciation of the natural world.
Grassroots agriculture initiatives address community needs while creating an intimate bond with the earth and soil. For many people, taking part in a community gardening project is the first step on a larger journey in outdoor stewardship.
BLK Projek - The Black Feminist Project
The Black Feminist Project enriches the lives of, restores agency, justice, joy and health to Black women, girls and non-men, often referred to as marginalized genders or MaGes and the children they care for - with an emphasis on mother-led families.
Using dynamic and engaging food and reproductive justice programming that explores not only the intersections of race, class, gender and respectability politics but also empowers them to tap into their inherent leadership abilities and dare to put themselves at the center of their own universes.
Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC*-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. We raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system. We bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice. We are training the next generation of activist-farmers and strengthening the movements for food sovereignty and community self-determination.
As more multilingual visitors enjoy our parks, the number of resources to support them has grown. Some of the best Spanish-language guides and tools are listed below.
NYS DEC's Beginners' Birding Guide
Ruta Appalachia: ¡Bienvenido al Sendero de los Apalaches!
Croton Gorge: Alternativas De Recreación
We’d like to recognize and thank the nations and tribes who were the first stewards and land managers of the region we serve including the Lenni Lenape, Munsee Lenape, Haudenosaunee, Mohican, Wappinger, Haudenosaunee, Matinecock, and Canarsie. A wonderful resource is the Native Land Digital which strives to create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing, and settler-Indigenous relations, through educational resources such as their map and Territory Acknowledgement Guide.
Resources for Learning More
So You Want to Talk About Race:
A current, constructive, and actionable exploration of today’s racial landscape, offering straightforward clarity that readers of all races need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.
Black Faces White Spaces:
Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans.
See Us Outside- A She Explores Mini-Series
Who Gets To Be Afraid in America?
We're Here. You Just Don't See Us.
Out There, Nobody Can Hear You Scream
Are We Missing Something?
If you are familiar with a well-established and recognized a nonprofit organization doing work on outdoor diversity, equity, and inclusion in the greater New York metropolitan area, please let us know. We hope that this page continues to grow as a resource for our trail family in the years to come.