This Land Was Made For You And Me…But Is It Accessible?

Young Black man wearing a hat and holding the straps on his backpack. He's on an overnight hiking trip in the woods.
Source: Kamaji Ogino from Pexels

A roundup of organizations making our public lands more inclusive

But if our protected lands aren’t accessible to all, are they truly “public”?

Studies have shown the physical and mental health benefits of nature. Hiking in nature provides the physical activity to release endorphins that help to stabilize mood and boost self-esteem. And with or without the addition of exercise, simply being in and viewing nature is known to have a host of positive psychological effects.

With COVID-19 changing how we value the outdoors, there’s been a huge rise in visits to our shared natural spaces. In response, a number of organizations are dedicated to improving the accessibility of our public lands. By focusing on access for our most underserved communities first, we can move toward a future where every person feels welcome, safe, and empowered in our natural environments.

Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System (BEELS)

The Department of Beaches and Harbors in LA tests the Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System (BEELS).

Lifeguards use bullhorns, whistles, or their voices to warn swimmers of hazards or unsafe conditions. However, these signals rely on the ability to hear, putting the 15% of adults who report hard-of-hearing at risk. LA County Beaches and Harbors Safety Officer Randy Dean had a better idea — a series of visual strobe signals and bilingual signage called BEELS.

Bilingual rangers

The best way to be more inclusive to non-English speakers in our public lands? Hire bilingual park rangers. This is exactly what Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is doing to make their natural spaces more inclusive to Spanish speakers.

“If there is one thing that I wish all hikers knew, it’s that building accommodations and universal access into the community benefits everyone.”

Syren Nagakyrie, Founder of Disabled Hikers

Related: Humans of CLI: What’s the Opposite of an Indoor Kid? It’s Brie

The Tribal and Native Lands Program

Tribal and native people have a deep and abiding relationship with traditional homelands, and contact with these places is essential to their culture, sovereignty, and history. To promote the wellbeing of these communities, the Trust for Public Land has worked with over 70 tribes to protect over 200,000 acres of their land.

Latino Outdoors

Inspiring, connecting, and engaging Latino communities in the outdoors is the focus of the nonprofit Latino Outdoors. By embracing culture and family as a key component of the outdoor narrative, they’re growing a strong network of Latino Outdoor visitors, mentors, and stewards.

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