Because of growing civil unrest in 2020, I joined a coalition of fellow park enthusiasts. Our group brainstormed ideas about how we could use our combined platforms to help. We’ve previously written about the barriers many BIPOC communities face when it comes to outdoor recreation. Statistics show that Black Americans make up only 7% of national park visitors (some studies show that it’s as low as 1%) while making up 13% of the U.S. population.
Each month, our group spotlights a relevant organization. These organizations are working to bridge the gap between outdoor spaces and underrepresented communities. Past features include:
- August: Black in National Parks Week
- September: Soul Trak
- October: Charles Roundtree
- November: Youth Opportunities Program
- December: Black Kids Adventures
- January: The Memorial Foundation
- February: Syatt
- March: Love Is King
- June: The Venture Out Project
As we open another month, we’re sharing another installment in our community effort to showcase organizations promoting social justice and more inclusive access to public lands. This month’s feature organization is Minnesota non-profit Wilderness Inquiry.
About Wilderness Inquiry►
Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures.
In 1974, Bill Simpson, Tom Rasmussen and Greg Lais took a group of 14-year-old students on a winter camping trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. What began as an effort to demonstrate that anyone can enjoy the wilderness on its own terms, Greg and college pal Paul Schurke later organized a trip to the Boundary Waters in 1977 that included two people who used wheelchairs and two people who are deaf. That trip opened new possibilities and changed the lives of everyone involved, including Greg and Paul. Since 1978, Wilderness Inquiry has been in the forefront of providing equitable access to the outdoors for people from all walks of life. This passion was born from a deep concern for the environment and a desire to share it with people who did not traditionally get outdoors
Since 1978 Wilderness Inquiry has directly served more than half a million individuals from all walks of life – diverse youth, individuals with differing abilities, and others who face barriers of use to public lands and waterways. Their programs such as Canoemobile, Gateway to Adventure, and Families Together help connect people to the outdoors and each other.
Wilderness Inquiry JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion) Commitment►
Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is built upon the foundational concept of inclusion. Through their work, they believe in building a just outdoor community where everyone belongs. They are committing to acknowledging the systemic barriers and structures of oppression that limit access to outdoor spaces for many.
The team at Wilderness Inquiry also acknowledges the responsibility they hold as an organization of privilege in doing their part to break these barriers down. One step of many they are taking in their newly founded Wilderness Inquiry JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion) Commitment, is to listen and make space for individuals and organizations who represent diverse identities to be the leaders in the narrative of outdoor inclusion. They are promoting JEDI across the workplace, integrating it into programs, and living the values together outdoors.
As part of the JEDI initiative, Wilderness Inquiry recently founded “The Inquiry Series: Exploring Inclusivity,” a speaker series featuring leaders in inclusion and diversity from across the country whose incredible work is paving the way to ensure everyone belongs in the outdoors. This webinar-based series is free to register and features monthly speakers whose stories and work challenge the access and inclusion narrative of outdoor recreation and education.