The Next Steps

June 17, 2020
Joshua Howard, Executive Director
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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The Next Steps
Hiking boots. Photo by Adobe Stock.

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The eye-opening death of George Floyd has made so many organizations stand up and say, “Enough. We must change.”

The Trail Conference was one of those voices. Our passive approach to diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion (DEEI) for the past 99 years has contributed to society’s acceptance of discrimination and racism. 

In January, the Trail Conference Board approved the organization’s first formalized DEEI policy. That was just the first long-overdue step. As with every hike we take, the only way to the summit is by taking many small steps. We now are tasked with taking that next step… and the next. 

With a century of experience as a convener of organizations, it is our responsibility to actively seek out and engage groups that are diverse and passionate about making the outdoors accessible and safe for all users. We are reaching out to our partners to find new collaborators to help us learn about the challenges and difficulties that come with being a person of color in America. As a respected source of information, we will share these stories, beginning with a collection of resources at our Diversity, Equality, And Inclusion Outdoors resources page.

The Trail Conference’s greatest impact on racial equality will not be organizing protests on the streets of our communities or reforming police departments. We will focus on the lack of diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion on trails and in parks. We will examine our programs and internal structure and processes, and work with our outdoor industry partners to learn how we can use trails to overcome social injustice.

It may seem early, but planning for 2021 has begun. Our staff and volunteer leaders will be looking at strategies and specific, on-the-ground tactics to help make the Trail Conference an agent of change for the Black community. 

There is a lot of work to do. But the Trail Conference has been steadfast in serving this region for a century, and we are up to the task. I look forward to working with new friends and partners. One year from now, we will review and report the progress we have made together and what is in store for the future.

As we have seen through the COVID-19 crisis, trails can heal, especially when we need them most. I am eager to see how we can improve access to nature for more communities and ensure that respite truly becomes an option for all.

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