By Emma Castleberry
The 2020 Outdoor Economy Conference, which was held virtually throughout October, resulted in a new resolution designed to help cities and counties advance equity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. The resolution was designed by a coalition including the In Solidarity Project, the NC Recreation and Park Association and the Growing Outdoors Partnership, which is also the host of the conference. “The outdoors can be a forum and a gathering place that helps us really connect across our various identities,” says Noah Wilson, director of sector development for Mountain BizWorks and program director for the Growing Outdoors Partnership. “We need a place to bridge the gaps in our community. Especially in a time like right now, when everyone can’t gather indoors, it’s imperative that our outdoor spaces are equitable and welcoming.”
The Outdoor Diversity Resolution is the governmental equivalent of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, an effort managed by the In Solidarity Project which connects leading outdoor brands with inclusion advocates to advance representation for people of color across the industry. “The resolution is a model framework to help local governments take tangible steps to make their outdoor resources more diverse, equitable and inclusive,” says Diquan Edmonds, program coordinator for the NC Recreation and Park Association. “The resolution focuses on the acknowledgment of systemic racism and injustice in outdoor spaces and provides a list of outcomes and actions that municipalities can take to help address these deep-rooted issues.”
Edmonds says people of color have “an interesting, complex connection” to the outdoors. “We have to deal with the fact that we are all living and recreating on land that was stolen from Indigenous People,” he says. “We have to deal with the legacy of slavery and its association with the outdoors. We have to deal with the fact that our culture has caused many people of color to feel unwelcomed or disconnected from the land, through systemic racism and oppression. We also must acknowledge the ancestral connection of people of color with the outdoors, and the contributions these individuals have made to being stewards for the outdoors.”
As municipalities adopt the resolution, Edmonds notes, the hope is that they will develop new best practices, model programs and infrastructure innovations that will lead to more inclusive outdoor spaces. “We’ll see communities of practice coming together, supported by state and national organizations, where those lessons are shared and implementation advice is passed along,” he says. “And most importantly, we’ll see more and more people of color feeling comfortable and empowered in the outdoors.”
For more information about the conference or the resolution, visit OutdoorEconomy.org.