‘Collectively Outdoor’ DEQ Initiative Displays on 1st Anniversary – RVBusiness

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Together Outdoors (TO) marks its first year with the launch of several new tools (listed below) for people across the country who support TO’s mission to create a more inclusive nature, but first TO Coalition Leader Gerry Seavo James reflects an inspiring, exciting and challenging beginning:

“Together Outdoors is a coalition committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the outdoor recreational experience. It grew out of a question from outdoor industry leaders on how they could help advance education and much-needed change, highlighted by the 2020 movement against racial injustice, which is pushing many sections of American society into a time of self-examination and driven by learning. Outdoor industry leaders asked themselves, “How did we get here and how can we help drive change?”

We all know or think that being outside is great, but it’s not always great for everyone. Feelings of exclusion, real or perceived threats of violence, lack of accessibility and difficulties in advancing a career outdoors have limited the extent to which all Americans spend time outdoors. The outdoor community, our systems, and our culture must evolve to better embrace our collective diversity—in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, income status, and many other factors. The initial interactions participants have with outdoor advocates such as park rangers, guides, vendors, or equipment store employees can affect or destroy their sense of safety and belonging in nature.

Together Outdoors brings together outdoor companies, agencies and nonprofit organizations to ensure positive outdoor experiences and enable lifelong outdoor recreation for underrepresented groups including Black and other people of color, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, recently immigrant people and those from different socioeconomic statuses. And most importantly, TO amplifies and supports the work of the individuals, groups and communities who are doing that work on the ground.

Together Outdoors’ initial efforts were inward-looking as the coalition focused on educating coalition members on the history of exclusionary outdoor practices and the challenges that remain for members of underrepresented groups who seek to enjoy America’s outdoors.

Together Outdoors members and new initiatives:

Meet the members of TO, over 100 strong – TO’s membership includes over 100 companies, nonprofits, grassroots groups and government agencies who have joined the coalition to help create a more accessible and welcoming outdoor environment. Together Outdoors furthers this cause by providing members with learning opportunities, resources and experiences to support their unique journeys and unlock their ability to contribute to this transformational effort.

Resource Hub beta launch – This innovative online database offers a wealth of curated information aimed at understanding how we can build an outdoor community that includes everyone. These materials include books, articles, research papers, videos, podcasts, and toolkits. In addition, the hub includes a directory of inclusion-related outdoor organizations, a directory for funding opportunities, and the ability to host web-based training programs. The platform is launched as a beta, with user feedback forming the basis for constant upgrades and improvements.

Program for inclusive spaces – Together Outdoors is conducting a pilot program in partnership with the Trust for Public Land to help recreation space operators and public land management agencies improve accessibility and inclusion in their spaces. Results from the pilot program, conducted in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, will be used to develop best practices in all areas of outdoor operations, including the design of physical facilities, staff training, storytelling, and the language used in print materials and signage.

Spending time outdoors is balm for many of the challenges we face today and is having a transformative impact on the health, resilience and well-being of communities everywhere.” said I Ling Thompson, senior vice president at Trust for Public Land. “It is therefore important that we make nature accessible and welcoming for everyone. These efforts require combining strategic investments with expertise in breaking down barriers, and as such we are thrilled to partner with Together Outdoors to make real progress in connecting everyone to nature.”

branding and merchandise – Together Outdoors is pleased to announce its new logo, which visually conveys the Coalition’s message of accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of the outdoor experience. Together Outdoors’ new online store offers clothing with logos that allow people to show their support for TO and a more accessible and welcoming nature for all people.

funding program – TO recently launched a grant program designed to help frontline organizations build a more accessible, welcoming outdoor ecosystem, thanks to support from THOR Industries and Winnebago Industries. To help offset the marginalization of marginalized communities in the grant process, TO’s criteria will prioritize individuals from those communities and organizations led by members of those groups.

The 2022 scholarships focus on:

  • Research and Resources – The development of effective research and resources around inclusion in nature, ie toolkits, research reports, guides and audio and video resources.

  • Activate change outdoors – Outdoor recreation leadership development programs, events and initiatives that benefit communities of color and intersecting minority groups.

Together Outdoors’ efforts also benefit from the wisdom and commitment of the Coalition’s Advisory Board and Governance Councils, whose members are deeply involved in equity, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and provide the Together Outdoors team with key recommendations on programs and give initiatives.

Additional comments and reflections from coalition members and partners: