Black History Month: Celebrating Black Leaders in the Outdoors

This Black History Month, we’re recognizing and celebrating Black leaders within the Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside network. These individuals are not only shaping the landscape of outdoor leadership but are also reshaping our collective perception of who belongs in the outdoors. Follow along as we interview leaders from across the nationwide network and spotlight their voices throughout the month!

Akiima Price

Why is Black leadership in the outdoors important?

Black leadership is essential in outdoor spaces because conservation goals have colonized the outdoor narrative. Our representation and diverse perspectives are essential in bringing back our stories into the narrative, both in the world and in Black communities. We have deep roots in agricultural heritage and innate connections to nature, and traditional knowledge and practices in the outdoors. At one point, skills such as hunting, fishing, foraging, sky reading, and herbalism were passed down through generations, providing sustenance and cultural significance. It is imperative that we model these practices to newer generations to restore them back into the values, habits, and traditions of black communities.

What brought you to the outdoors?

My father initially. He was raised in the South and loved to camp, fish, and bike. Quite naturally, I carried those values into my adulthood. However, the vision of Marta Cruz Kelly, Reginald “Flip” Hagood, and Destry Jarvis (all titans in the National Park Service in the 80’s and 90’s) called me into the movement. In 1991 they created the Career Conservation Development Program to expose women and people of color to careers in conservation. I was studying Communications at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore but was attracted to the opportunity of a summer job. Little did I know it would lead me to my life’s work.

Collective impact involves partners and stakeholders collaborating. What’s your role in Thrive Outside?

I direct the Thrive Outside DC initiative. I get to weave together a network of diverse, dynamic partners in Washington, DC, to address barriers to getting youth and families outdoors. The thing is, we have plenty of parks and green spaces within walking distance in DC; our access issues here are around safety and the awareness of the mental, physical, and social benefits outdoor spaces provide to economically stressed communities. I mainly do this work under The Anacostia Parks & Community Collaborative (APACC), a network of community leaders and organizations working together to make the Anacostia River and its park system the best possible resource for Ward 7 and 8 residents in the District of Columbia.

What’s your vision for the outdoors?

My ideal vision for the outdoors includes transforming parks into clinics and healing spaces, serving as cultural centers for family-based fellowship and healing for communities that have experienced trauma.

Akiima Price

Chris Geden

The River City Foundation Director of Community Engagement, Thrive Outside St. Louis Director

Why is Black leadership in the outdoors important?

I really think representation matters, and it’s important for me to be an active participant in outdoor recreation if I’m going to be an advocate in this space. Also, the relationships that are made with our youth are often stronger as they learn new skills and conquer new challenges.

What brought you to the outdoors?

I grew up in a very rural white community, but I’ve always been involved with the outdoors—fishing, hunting, camping, and paddling. With every youth-serving position that I have worked in, one of the strategies that I used was nature-based programming. The opportunity to introduce youth to the outdoors in a sustainable manner is something that still excites me every single day.

Collective impact involves partners and stakeholders collaborating. What’s your role in Thrive Outside?

I am the Thrive Outside Program Manager and the Director of Community Engagement, so everything I do is based on collaborative relationships. Even more importantly, these are twenty-plus-year relationships with agencies, people, and communities. River City Outdoors seeks to positively impact the outdoor community by removing barriers for communities who are often underserved and not even included in conversations regarding their participation in the outdoors.

What’s your vision for the outdoors?

A totally inclusive environment in which all people are welcomed with open arms, and thoughts and experiences are shared. A total cultural shift on who is at the table as we talk about outdoor recreation.

Jacob Fisher

Outdoor Foundation Development and Program Manager

Why is Black leadership in the outdoors important?

Let me start with these two truths:

  • Being in nature is essential for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
  • Black folks have been historically excluded from the outdoors (often violently).

Black leadership is important because people from the African Diaspora have always been deeply connected to land. For survival, black people in the USA had to have an intimate connection to nature in order to endure the brutality of enslavement. This ranged from fishing, hunting, gardening, creating herbal medicines, and literally navigating to their freedom through knowledge of the stars and land. Thus, Black leadership merely reflects the truth that black people deserve the opportunity to offer our wisdom, guidance, and stories to the outdoor space.

What brought you to the outdoors?

Growing up in Tallahassee, Florida and Houston, TX,  I was fishing, going to parks, playing tennis, and having family gatherings outdoors. As I began my mindfulness and yoga journey, my appreciation for nature was further ignited.

Prior to the Outdoor Foundation, I worked at an equine therapy and eco-mindfulness farm right outside of Austin, TX. In this space, I began intentionally connecting with the landscape and vastness within and all around you. Building my own capacity to resource myself and cultivate a nourishing and helpful relationship with nature.

I believe the land and all of its inhabitants are facilitators and wise teachers. The wisdom lies in the presence and awareness of the continuous lessons that nature uncovers. Developing a connection to nature has allowed me to move through the world with clarity, peace, and gratitude.

Collective impact involves partners and stakeholders collaborating. What’s your role in Thrive Outside?

I have the honor to be the Development and Program manager for the Outdoor Foundation. Therefore, I have the privilege to directly support our 13 Thrive Communities across the country. I serve as the Foundation’s lead contact for current and future Thrive Outside community partners.

Ultimately, I see my role as collective impact in action, and this ranges from:

  • Lead the planning and execution of National Thrive Outside Days across all Thrive Outside Communities.
  • Create, plan, and lead all efforts regarding the In-Person Convening for Thrive Communities.
  • Facilitate and support the Outdoor Foundation’s Monthly Thrive Network meetings.
  • Lead the planning and implementation of Quarterly Thrive Network Convening.
  • Access and evaluate organizations, entities, and individuals that engage with Thrive Outside communities.

What’s your vision for the outdoors?

My vision is the integration of nature into everyone’s day to day life. Engaging with the benefits, joy, and liberation of nature is essential for being a human. Ideally, the outdoors will be a space that connects each of us to our internal world and to every being around us. Nature has the powerful ability to connect our inner change to social transformation. Hopefully, we can utilize the grounding and clarifying qualities of the outdoors to create a beautiful future where a sustainable and harmonious relationship with nature is actualized!

Dr. Na'Taki Osborne Jelks

West Atlanta Watershed Alliance Co-Founder/Executive Director, Atlanta Thrive Outside Director

Why is Black leadership in the outdoor space important?

Black leadership is critical in the outdoor space because time is overdue for Black people to fully connect to the outdoors and to all of the benefits and resources it brings to and provides our communities. Through Black leadership, we can help reclaim this lifeline that belongs to us and that should be positively experienced by all Black children, families, and communities. Especially in the United States, we’ve been disconnected through the legacies of slavery, lynching, and other horrors perpetrated against us in the outdoors. The lands and waters that our people have historically lived off, been stewards of, and possessed vast ecological knowledge about have many times been weaponized against us. To turn that trauma into healing by experiencing the outdoors in all of its beauty, splendor, freedom, opportunities for learning and exploration, and potential to inspire joy and connectedness to a sense of place—it’s our birthright.

What brought you into the outdoor space? 

As a daughter of the South—born in Mississippi and living in Louisiana and Kentucky for parts of my adolescence—I’ve always had a connection to the outdoors. Whether it was spending time running around and playing with cousins on my paternal grandparents’ 95-acre farm in the Mississippi Delta, picking plums outside of my maternal Grandmother’s home in small town Central Mississippi, or even walking on the trail through the woods behind my Grandmother’s house to visit her sister nearby, my relationship with the outdoors has always seemed like a natural one. After those early experiences with family, I later joined Girl Scouts and most enjoyed going to Camp Judy Layne in Eastern Kentucky during summer breaks for tent camping and days filled with sunshine, the beauty of the natural landscape, and freedom in the outdoors. In contrast, I later witnessed Louisiana’s natural paradise being dotted with petrochemical plants and pollution that harmed the environment and human health. As an adult living on the Westside of Atlanta, Georgia amidst both beautiful urban forest spaces and near environmental hazards and stressors, all of my previous experiences have brought me into the outdoors, and my leadership is fueled by a passion to preserve, protect, and restore our natural resources for the well-being of my community and future generations.    

Collective impact involves partners and stakeholders’ collaborating. What’s your role in Thrive and let me know about your organization?

The West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) is the backbone organization of Thrive Outside Atlanta. WAWA has been a member of the Thrive Outside Atlanta Network since its formation in 2019, however we started out as one of the environmental education service providers—one of only two Black-led organizations in the group. As the COVID-19 Pandemic began to subside, WAWA took over the leadership reigns of the network from the Trust for Public Land and has been managing, cultivating, and deepening partnerships with youth environmental education and outdoor recreation providers as well as youth-serving organizations to engage youth from economically disadvantaged communities in nature and the outdoors through exploring both the Chattahoochee River and close-to-home Atlanta parks, trails, and greenspaces. For more than two decades, WAWA has pioneered efforts to advance environmental education, community engagement in watershed and greenspace protection, environmental stewardship, and environmental justice in Northwest and Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods. In part through this work, WAWA has been a leader in ensuring that access to nature and meaningful engagement in environmental education, environmental stewardship, and outdoor recreation are not factors of race, income, or geography, and our innovative, place-based, culturally relevant programs have introduced thousands to the creeks, streams, waterfalls, and abundant greenspaces in West Atlanta neighborhoods.  

What is your vision of an ideal outdoor? 

My vision of the ideal outdoors is one that is representative of the rich, diverse heritage and cultures of our country. It’s not exclusive to any one group, and it is accessible to all who will journey to know and experience it.  It is one that honors the original inhabitants of the land as well as those who labored on the land by force or by choice to produce prosperity for the masses (that often didn’t include them). The ideal outdoors is one of unlimited connections and opportunities for kinship, stewardship, teaching and learning, exploration, healing, and joy. It’s a place where everyone can see themselves, where everyone can be themselves, where we all feel welcomed, and where we all are at home.

We all deserve to Thrive Outside

The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative is working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all. The initiative awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks that provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors. The Thrive Outside Community Initiative helped to connect more than 40,000 youth and families in thirteen communities nationwide to the joy, wonder, and myriad benefits of the outdoors. Learn more about Thrive Outside here. 

2023 Special Report on Hunting

The 2023 Special Report on Hunting and the Shooting Sports provides a comprehensive look at the more than 14 million Americans ages 6 and over who participated at least once in hunting with both firearms and archery equipment in 2022. The report identifies trends and includes detailed information about participation including motivations, barriers, and preferences of participants.

Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2022, 14.7 million Americans hunted at least one time with a bow or a firearm.

  • Hunting participation increased 1% in 2022 compared to 2021.

  • Bowhunting (archery) and hunting with a handgun increased, while hunting with a rifle and hunting with a shotgun remained even with 2021 numbers.

  • Hunting-license sales dropped 3.1% in 2022, bringing license sales back down to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

  • Harvesting food and meat remains a key inspiration to hunters, as do the desire to be close to nature and the challenge hunting provides. Limited access to quality hunting grounds and the high cost of ammunition were the most cited difficulties in 2022.

This special report was developed in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation, which works with partners across the country to address equity barriers and help make the outdoors accessible for all.

We all deserve to Thrive Outside

Discover how the Outdoor Foundation is working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all.

‘The Outdoors’ Are Urban, Too

Q&A with Rachel Felder, a naturalist at the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department 

The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative is a national network of partners working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all. In this Impact Stories series, we talk to local Thrive Outside leaders to learn more about their community and their vision for the future.  

For a prime example of how powerful collective impact can be, Thrive Outside Detroit is a community-led network involving organizations from local, city, state, and national levels—and has already directly led to events engaging hundreds of youth in nature-based activities. 

We asked Rachel Felder, a naturalist with the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, about the coalition’s programming, goals, and efforts to redefine the way people see the “outdoors.” 

What kind of programming are you doing through Thrive Outside? 

We have nature programming throughout the city and do a lot of work focusing on bridging the gap between nature and people. Recently, we had a three-day event to celebrate National Thrive Outside Day with the Canoemobile from Wilderness Inquiry in Minnesota. We collaborated with a lot of different partners, including the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, the Belle Isle Nature Center, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Detroit Public Schools Community District. We were able to get probably 200 youth out paddling on the Detroit River and learning about the environment surrounding it. It was a really great opportunity to uplift and amplify what the goals of Thrive Outside are. These three days came out of multiple meetings with community partners and getting together to figure out how to have an opportunity like this for youth within the city. 

How do you define the “outdoors” in an urban environment like Detroit? 

We’re really trying to emphasize that there’s no wrong way to be outside, as long as you’re respecting the Earth and the people around you and you’re being safe. It doesn’t have to be this extensive experience, if you don’t want it to be. Some of us don’t necessarily feel comfortable or are not used to doing certain activities outside, and outside isn’t something that’s normalized for us. So it just starts out with talking with people. 

We have a lot of pocket parks, actually. We’re working on a grant from the National Parks & Recreation Association, through the City of Detroit Parks and Rec Department, to create seven new pocket parks. We’re working with community leaders in seven districts to figure out what they want and need in their communities, and help them build it. 

There are so many ways to exist in nature, and nature itself is not going to judge you for the way you want to interact with it. In every experience, we’re trying to bring people to nature, and we’re also trying to bring nature to people. 

What are some ways we can make the outdoors more inclusive and accessible? 

Nature is a human right, so to speak. It’s important to be talking about all of these things with people and encouraging them to utilize the natural spaces they have in their area, and just to sit outside is a great thing to do. We try to encourage them, like, “Hey, try to do some of the activities you do inside, outside.” Like reading a book, or drawing a picture, or having a simple conversation. Sometimes, shifting things outside can shift the entire dynamic of what’s being done, like having a meeting outside versus inside can be transformational. 

How are you finding and engaging people to interact with your programming? 

There’s a mix of us doing outreach, and people seeking and finding us. We interact with a lot of people through our social media accounts. That is where we promote many of our events. But we find that a lot of people find out about us through word of mouth. We really try to engage with many organizations within the city of Detroit to spread the word that there are opportunities to get youth and adults of color outside and camping. We have camping leadership trainings for all experience levels. Once you’ve done the training, you have access to our gear library. 

One of the reasons the Thrive Outside initiative is so cool and important to us is because we love partnership. One of my colleagues likes to say that there’s so much knowledge held within people, so through working with different organizations, through working with different people, it’s really cool and powerful to be able to meet people who want to do things with us and reach out and collaborate. 

How does the collective impact model relate to the work you’re doing? 

The collective impact allows for organizations to come together and figure out how to collaborate. Like, you’re having this program; how can we uplift it? It’s beautiful. It brings so many people into a space to have conversations that aren’t stagnant—they’re active conversations that result in plans and partnerships and long-term relationships. We’re already collaborating on a daily basis with other organizations, like Detroit Parks and Recreation employees, YMCA employees, and Sierra Club employees — and that’s just within our Detroit Outdoors collaborative. A lot of our missions align—at the end of the day, we want to get people outside, so let’s figure out how to do it together. 

Having national partners, state-level partners, city-level partners, and people on the ground in grassroots organizations, all at the same table, is something unbelievable. Seeing the engagement that comes out of these conversations and the work that Thrive is uplifting is very powerful. 

How have the outdoors been impactful to you in your own life? 

Detroit Outdoors took me on my first camping trip when I was 16. It’s a really full-circle experience to be taking youth even younger than me on their first camping trips, and sharing those experiences with them and knowing some of the emotions they’re having. It’s great to see their faces when they see the stars at night, or when they see a deer that they don’t expect to see. Nature is somewhere that I find a lot of peace. 

What does success look like? What do you want to see Detroit achieve through Thrive Outside and beyond? 

It starts with knowing what people want to do. Our gear library has been a game changer in many ways because it’s allowed us to really bridge that gap. If we’re talking about 5, 10 or even 50 years down the line, I’d like to see so many gear libraries in recreation centers and community hubs throughout the city of Detroit.  If people want to go camping or skiing or canoeing, they’ll have the ability to access a gear rental system where people are keeping equipment in great condition because they know other people are using it, too. 

We have a lot of vacant lots in Detroit and I think there’s a lot of potential there, as well, to make use of what we have. Some people have installed shipping containers to create useful, recreational spaces in empty lots. We ask a lot of questions about how we can give people infrastructure and resources to utilize the spaces that they have. I’d love to see more of this—maybe shipping containers with access to laundry facilities or clothes libraries so people can have gear in the winter. I’d like to see hubs for nature programming, living trailers or tiny houses where people can borrow binoculars and access passive programming in the outdoors. I want to see more free libraries and creative reading nooks with ample lighting, just creating spaces to make people want to go outside and not have to question themselves. I want it to be accessible: all body types, all learning and physical abilities. I want to see people interacting with parks in so many different ways, whether it’s reading a book or doing ecology work or citizen science, or going camping. I just want people to feel comfortable going outside and to know that they have a right to be there.  

 

 

 

2023 Special Report on Fishing

Whether fishing on lakes, rivers, streams, or seas, millions of Americans were united in 2022 by the love of fishing. For the thirteenth consecutive year, OIA’s philanthropic arm, Outdoor Foundation, has partnered with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) to produce the Special Report on Fishing.   

The report provides a comprehensive review of fishing participation trends, including detailed information on specific fishing categories and audiences. Here are some key findings from the report:  

  • In 2022, 54.5 million Americans ages 6 and over took to the nation’s waterways to enjoy recreational fishing, a 4 percent increase from 2021.  
  • Fishing participation among Hispanic people ages 6 and over has increased about 45 percent over the last decade.  
  • Over the last decade, female participant numbers grew nearly 4 million, from 16 million in 2012 to 19.8 million in 2022. Females represented 36 percent of total anglers and 42 percent of first-time participants. 
  • New anglers are younger, more diverse, and highly socially connected.  
  • Only 18 percent of anglers typically fished alone, reiterating that fishing remained a shared activity in 2022. 

Data continues to underscore the critical importance of introducing fishing at a young age, as 86 percent of current fishing participants fished before the age of 12. That’s why programs like Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative are so important, as they help youth access the outdoors – youth participation in Thrive Outside increased 175% in 2022. Learn more about our work to make the outdoors more equitable and accessible here.  

For press inquiries, contact Chris@dennyink.com

Did you know? OIA members have exclusive access to our library of industry-leading research on participation trends, market forces, consumer insights, and more. You can explore all of OIA’s research benefits here.  

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Connecting Families with Nature is the Key to Long-Term Engagement

Q&A with Christian Vargas 

Director of Community Engagement for Thorne Nature Experience 

The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative is a national network of partners working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all. In this Impact Stories series, we talk to local Thrive Outside leaders to learn more about their community and their vision for the future.  

Boulder County may have a heavy concentration of professional outdoor athletes and outdoor industry brands, but it still has a lot of work to do to make its outdoor access more equitable. Thorne Nature Experience, the backbone organization of Thrive Outside Boulder/Denver, is working to deepen families’ relationships with the outdoors—and each other—in Lafayette and beyond. 

We asked Christian Vargas, the organization’s director of community engagement, what to expect from the partnership. 

What are Thorne’s main goals for the Thrive Outside partnership? 

We want to ensure that all of our programs are meaningful for community members and remove any barriers to participation. In addition, we want to connect youth to nature through a continuum of pre-K to high school, backyard to backcountry, and family-integrated programming. 

We’re trying to work together to create meaningful engagement with the outdoors for both children and families, so that engagement is more sustainable in the long run. We understand that kids’ whole families, including the parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, also need to experience and have access to the outdoors in a way that is meaningful to them. 

We’re trying to ensure that access to nature is more equitable in our community, so we deliver nature programs to underserved youth in the cities of Lafayette and Boulder. We’re also trying to make sure that we support their families, too, and remove any barriers to accessing nature. So, for example, the school district has a program where fourth and fifth graders go on an overnight trip to camp in the mountains. Thorne Nature Experience and Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza has summer programs that connect the rest of the family to a similar experience with family camps throughout the year in addition to other youth programs. By providing a way for the whole family to enjoy these nature experiences, we hope that they will continue their connection with nature and keep exploring the outdoors as a family.   

How are you working to increase outdoor access locally? 

One of our goals is that we want to ensure that Lafayette youth are living within a safe, 10-minute walk to nature—from their home to an open space, park, or trail. Every year we strive to have meaningful programming to connect youth and their families with outdoor opportunities. Three years ago, for example, Nature Kids was able to advocate and collaborate to raise funds to build a park right next to a school where we have one of the biggest Latinx communities. The park was designed with a trail that connects with parts of the community and the local town to connect families to nature. The park has a playground with boulders, tree logs, water features, and a shelter for community use. 

With so much wilderness and nature in Colorado, why is it so important to create urban green spaces? 

There are some families that don’t have access to a car, or maybe they have to work really long hours that don’t allow them to do these things. Especially with COVID, I think it’s really important for families to have local access to nature that doesn’t require driving. Even if they have a car, they might not have the confidence to drive in the mountains, especially if road conditions could get bad. Then they can still walk close by and have the opportunity to access nature without other means of transportation. We know that a family that visits or shares the outdoors together will be healthier overall. Families that have time to connect with nature likely have better communication with the kids, better mental health, physical health, and lifestyle balance. So I think it’s important to also have access within the city in a way that you can easily walk to the park or a trail, and you don’t need to use a car or spend more time traveling to be in nature. 

How are the outdoors meaningful to you? 

When I was growing up in Costa Rica, one of the main sources of income was tourism. In the late 70s, Costa Rica started putting together land to make national parks. Now, it is one of the countries with the largest percentage of protected areas in the world—25 percent of its land is protected. Growing up there, that was one of the things we used to do—traveling a lot, going to a national volcano or one of our beautiful beaches. That’s part of the culture, to drive on the weekends to explore the outdoors or go for a hike. When I moved to Boulder, I saw how similar it was, but at the same time, different. It’s a beautiful place, with many mountains, and it snows, so you have a variety of year-round outdoor activities. That alone connects you with nature, and many of these activities, like hiking, are free. Now that I have a family, I’m trying to pass along that love for the outdoors to my family and also take advantage of all the gems here in this state. 

Your kids have previously participated in some of Thorne’s programming. How did that experience impact them? 

My oldest kid did a summer camp where they went to four or five different places. They started with Cal-Wood, an outdoor engagement program, in Boulder, then from there they did an overnight. It was about a week long. They learned some outdoor educational skills, they did rafting and mountain biking, and then they went into the mountains for some camping. They engaged the kids in a way that also makes it super fun, so when he came back, he was very excited—the first thing he told me is that it was super fun and he had a lot of great memories, one being a competition in starting a campfire with minimal resources. He wanted to become a summer camp counselor as soon as he was old enough.  

My youngest has done some summer camps as well with Nature Kids, around the Coal Creek Trail. It’s a long trail that travels along the creek through three cities: Louisville, Lafayette, and Erie. They teach the kids about the ecosystem, the plants and animals, and they keep them outside all day. It’s a really nice way to release all of their energy and connect them with the local trail system. He also attended the YMCA Camp Santa Maria in the Mountains, an overnight camp with a lot of fun activities. 

During COVID, Lafayette Nature Kids provided families with small learning cohorts for students, where they were able to balance their online learning through their schools with outdoor activities. My son participated in this program and it made a big difference for him and his mental health during those difficult times. 

 

Building Urban Networks to Break Down Barriers to the Outdoors

Q&A with Brooke Thurau, Conservation Partnership and Network Specialist for The Nature Conservancy in Chicago 

By Kassondra Kloos

The Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Initiative is a national network of partners working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all. In this Impact Stories series, we talk to local Thrive Outside leaders to learn more about their community and their vision for the future.  

Chicago has a wealth of outdoor opportunities within—theoretically—easy reach of its urban center. But lack of transportation, a history of discrimination, and manufacturing industries make it hard for many families to get there. The Nature Conservancy, the backbone organization of  Thrive Outside Chicago, is working to connect, galvanize, and fund grassroots organizations throughout the city to meet people where they are. 

We asked Brooke Thurau, who runs the organization’s Volunteer Stewardship Network, what to expect from the city’s Thrive Outside Initiative. 

What are the barriers to outdoor access in the Chicago area? 

Chicago has a history of redlining. Black and brown communities, particularly on the south and west sides, have historically been excluded from outdoor programming. They’ve also taken the brunt of environmental injustices. Industry in these communities has caused serious health problems for children, including asthma. There’s also a lack of accessible green space, and transportation in general is an issue. A lot of people want to visit the forest preserves and parks, but they can’t because they don’t have cars. Additionally, many people don’t feel safe in these spaces. 

How do you get people more comfortable with the outdoors if they don’t feel safe playing outside, in nature? 

It takes time. And a lot of trust-building. One of our key partners in the Chicago Thrive Network helps support and manage the natural areas on the south side. To try to encourage people from the community to participate in restoration workdays, a staff member hung flyers in local businesses. People weren’t showing up, so she started going to community-based health and wellness organizations and meetings. She went to teachers and had a lot of conversations about what the barriers were, then found different ways to engage people and help them be comfortable in the outdoors. So a lot of times, she brought nature to them. The Volunteer Stewardship Network provided funding and she held an outdoor festival at one of the natural areas with games for kids and engagement opportunities for adults in the parking lot area, so it wasn’t inside the natural area. There were groups there that brought rehabilitated animals they could introduce to the kids and their parents. They took a first step, not expecting folks to go into the forest and hike, but starting slowly with small introductions to the forest. 

What goals are you working toward through the Thrive Outside Initiative? 

Our goal is not to build a new network, because the work is already being done. Our goal is to provide capacity to what are often volunteer-run organizations. I’m excited to really be able to provide the support these organizations need, to help them strengthen the work they’re already doing, and to provide much-needed funding. A lot of these organizations aren’t 501(c)(3) organizations, so they can’t be recipients of funding because they don’t have that status. So they rely on community donations and volunteer time. We’re really excited to be able to provide small grants, and maybe even some larger capacity-building grants, tools and supplies, and outdoor gear—the things these organizations lack because they’re so community- and grassroots-based. 

Some organizations don’t feel comfortable writing the grants or are really intimidated by the process, so we have offered to do oral applications. An organization can jump on a Zoom call and answer the questions verbally, and then I’ll type them out and have someone else review those applications so that it’s equitable. This has taught us that we need to make grant applications more accessible. We want people to feel comfortable and to be able to enjoy the outdoors, but there are also barriers in the process. We want to consider why some groups wouldn’t apply, and ensure we’re sharing the information widely so that people aren’t being left out. 

How have you seen the collective impact model benefit the goals you’re working toward? 

We’re working to build capacity and bring organizations together. The Nature Conservancy’s Urban Conservation Program has been working with a lot of grassroots organizations for years, which includes places of worship, community gardens, environmental justice organizations, and more. There’s a huge environmental justice movement in Chicago given the damage to communities from industry. There are stewardship and affinity groups like Out in Nature, which is a group of LGBTQIA+ members getting outdoors together. Some of these groups need, say, binoculars, or birding guides. Through Thrive Outside, we’ll be able to provide these groups with the things they need to enjoy the outdoors. 

We’ve also been able to connect people with varying levels of knowledge. So, a brand-new community garden whose leaders have never done this work before but saw the need in the community can connect with other community gardens that have been around for a long time so they don’t have to start from scratch. 

Can you share an example of another organization that’s working to bring down these barriers? 

There’s an organization that’s part of the Volunteer Stewardship Network, which we’re hoping to engage through the Thrive Outside network. It’s a family-run organization called All Things Through Christ Outreach Ministries. They’re in West Englewood, on the west side of Chicago, and they’re in a food desert. At the time this outreach ministry started, there were no green spaces in the area, and with public transportation being the primary mode of transportation, people were unable to get to and from the nearest grocery store. People resorted to gas stations and liquor stores for snacks, so All Things Through Christ started distributing one bag of essential food and personal hygiene items once a month out of the lower level of their church.  

This monthly distribution has expanded into a full-service community outreach organization, offering residents access to a full-service weekly client choice food pantry and a youth job skills development and mentorship program. The family and its partners realized the health disparities plaguing this community and the lack of access to healthcare and fresh fruits and vegetables, and they began to steward land contiguous to the building site of their future community outreach center. They’ve been growing food and flowers and educating the community about healthy eating and the environment. They also run programs for youth and adults to engage people in growing flowers and vegetables in raised garden beds, so kids get to dig their hands into the dirt and plant seeds and harvest plants that become meals. Over the summer, the kids get to watch things grow slowly. A lot of these children and adults live in rental spaces, such as highrises, that don’t have yards or landscaping, and they don’t really even have grass in their communities, so this is life-changing and brings hope to the community. 

How do you collaborate with other groups and uplift other organizations’ work? 

I like the word “uplift.” I’ve been in the conservation field for 15 years. My graduate research was based on equity in conservation and I did a lot of work in Central America, in Panama. I saw the same thing over and over where large conservation organizations, with good intentions, would go into a community where there’s a valuable resource and kind of go about it all the wrong way. Like, “We’re here, this is what we’re gonna do, and you can partner with us, but this is our plan.” Now, our approach through the Nature Conservancy, especially in our city’s work, is to meet organizations where they are. 

What does that look like? 

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and we don’t have a desire to tell these groups what to do, like what the conservation field has done in the past. 

It’s important to go to places of worship, attend environmental justice meetings or events, go to fairs or events in the communities where there are needs and organizations already working, and really just listen. I think that is one of the most important things, just to go into communities and listen and get to know one another and find out what’s really going on. There are a lot of similarities among these communities in Chicago, but there are a lot of differences, too. They’re very unique, with a unique set of barriers and a unique set of solutions. I think the goal is to really learn the needs of each one and build trust. 

  

  

   

 

2023 Outdoor Participation Trends Report

Executive SUmmary

Access key findings from the report:

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OIA members and Outdoor Foundation partners have exclusive access to the full 72-page report to inform their brand’s consumer and business strategy and to help drive equitable access to the outdoors nationwide. For the good of the industry, OIA and OF share key findings from the Executive Summary with the public each year.  

Here’s a sneak preview of what’s in the Executive Summary 

  • The outdoor recreation participant base grew 2.3 percent in 2022 to a record 168.1 million participants or 55 percent of the U.S. population ages six and older. 

  • Although 2022 outdoor recreation included record numbers of participants and record high participation rates (especially amongst families and youth), the number of outings per participant declined in 2022 for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020. 

  • The outdoor recreation new participant base became more diverse in 2022 including increases in participation among Black people, Hispanic people, and LBGTQIA+ people.   

  • 80% of outdoor activity categories experienced participation growth in 2022 including large categories like camping and fishing, and smaller categories like sport climbing and skateboarding. 

For over 15 years, the Outdoor Participation Trends Report has served as the most trusted and comprehensive source of insights and narratives around who’s doing what, when, and how outdoors. The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association, funds the research and publishes the findings in partnership with OIA every year.  

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The Way We Define ‘Outdoors’ Needs to Change

Q&A with Akiima Price, Thrive Outside Washington D.C. Director 

By Kassondra Kloos

The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative is a national network of partners working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all. In this Impact Stories series, we talk to local Thrive Outside leaders to learn more about their community and their vision for the future.  

Throughout her career, Akiima Price has been working to increase participation in the outdoors—and to change the way we define it. There’s no “right” way to spend time outdoors, she says. Sitting in a park playing Uno with your kids, or painting your nails at a picnic table, or just having a conversation, is better than not spending time in that park at all. 

As the Thrive Outside director for Washington, D.C., Price is building a network of organizations to help children and adults forge meaningful, lasting connections with nature. 

We asked her about her plans for the Thrive Outside Washington, D.C. Community, and how the outdoor industry can better collaborate with groups breaking down barriers in their own communities. 

How do you define the “outdoors?” 

I think it’s dependent on your environment. If you live in a rural area, your outdoors could be trees and grass. If you live in an urban area, your outdoors could be simply not indoors. As an urbanite, when I can choose where to be outdoors, I choose to be near water. Some people don’t have a choice about what their outdoors is, in terms of where they live. Most times, when people say outdoors, you think trees, grass, pleasant—you don’t think scary. But for some people, if you say, “go outdoors,” it’s scary, because they may not live in areas that feel safe. 

It’s important to understand that being active in the “outdoors” doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody. Some feel like if you’re not kayaking or doing traditional athletics or recreation—it doesn’t “count.” We need to shift that. People use parks and outdoor spaces to play cards, to play basketball, to have cookouts. Those experiences count. 

What are some ways you’re addressing safety concerns and helping people feel more comfortable in parks and green spaces? 

We’re doing way more programming, from May all the way through November. We have a skate pavilion, so people often come on their own and skate. We’ve also been doing a monthly late-night skating program. We keep the park open until 10 p.m. and have DJs and concerts and incredibly thoughtful programming—like family portraits at every event, and making homemade bug spray in the summer months. It’s looking a lot better, and people are feeling safer. 

What motivates your interest in working with Thrive Outside and the outdoor industry? 

Oh gosh, it’s so pregnant with possibility. The industry wants to address access, and I’ve got a laundry list of access issues. This Thrive work helps me connect with other people in other cities who have similar challenges, who I can learn from. Everybody has something to contribute and we see ourselves in each other. 

What are some examples of programming you’ve done with Thrive so far? 

My first thing out of the gate was the Thrive Washington, D.C. After School Teen Respite Program. We were on the heels of a youth-fueled gun violence epidemic that summer in Washington, D.C. and realized we weren’t doing much with teens between ages 14 and 19. We wondered how can we use Anacostia Park to keep kids safe and provide rest or relief during out of school time hours when they were most vulnerable. We realized early on we would need to provide transportation, food, and a stipend, and make this all about recreation not so much education. This needed to be an opportunity for them to just be kids.  

So we recruited 30 stressed youth to participate in a 6-week after-school program in our park. We gave everyone a time card, and asked them to fill out four 30-minute time slots with whatever they wanted. At least one had to be the “Me Time” station where we worked with an organization that did group therapy with kids, and they loved it. Other activities included riding a bike, skating, and playing basketball. For every activity they completed, they got $5—so $20 per day, every day after school, for six weeks. It was so nice just seeing them giggle and chase each other. These are older teens who are too cool for school, but ultimately, it was amazing. 

How have the outdoors been important in your own life? 

I grew up in the 70s in an area with a lot of urban development going on. My dad grew up in the country and my mom grew up on a farm, so they exposed me to camping and fishing and the outdoors when I was younger. When I was old enough to play outside, I was fascinated by caterpillars, and even more fascinated when I learned what they turn into. I was always fascinated and connected and loved nature, animals, and water. By the time I was old enough to have a car, I sought out camping experiences and the ocean. The ocean is my therapist. During all the coverage of George Floyd, oh my God, it was so heavy. It impacted my work, where so many people wanted to have deep conversations about things I had been saying all along. I was losing it, and I just remember going out to the eastern shore. I would drive across the Bay Bridge and just feel like a whole new person. 

What are your goals for the next few years with Thrive Outside? 

I’m setting the groundwork for creating networks to put existing groups in contact with one another. Imagine a room where we’ve got existing environmental groups together, and then we bring in social services, human services, and non-traditional, justice-focused partners. That’s phase one—establishing the room and making sure people have everything they need so they don’t leave that room while I go out and get other groups involved. Once we’ve got diversity in that room, we can do an assessment so everyone can say, “Hey, I do this well, and here’s where I need support.” 

What kinds of support could brands offer to organizations like those you work with to make a meaningful impact? 

Groups are often used to giving money, but sometimes giving gear can be even more useful. A coat manufacturer, for example, could outfit an elementary school in a low-income area so the kids can have recess outside during the winter. Sometimes parks really just need chairs, or hammocks. Not a lot of people get to lay in a hammock in their lifetime. It seems really simple, but if more parks had freestanding hammocks and people could experience them, my goodness, that’s my dream. 

I had this master list of $14,000 worth of gear and it included things like kayaks and really nice binoculars. If you’ve never experienced a really nice pair of binoculars, you’re missing out. And that’s another reason for the industry to get involved in this way—people spend money on what matters to them, including low-income people. Right now it just looks like a bunch of rich people who make cool stuff because they like to be outside, but a lot of this stuff is actually very practical, and just needs to be more inclusive. 

 

Thrive Outside Day 2022: A Nationwide Celebration

Thanks to our community leaders, partners, and participants, our 2022 Thrive Outside Day events were an overwhelming success! Read below to learn how Thrive Outside Communities across the country celebrated our collective work to address equity barriers and ensure the outdoor experience for all.

 

ATLANTA:

Thrive Outside Day in Atlanta was hosted on November 12 at Rodney Sr. Cook Park in partnership with The Alliance for The Activation of Cook Park. With various outdoor activities to participate in, from mountain biking to a park scavenger hunt, Atlanta really got to see and feel what Thrive Outside is about. Learn more about Thrive Outside Atlanta.

“This was such a beautiful event, it reminds me of field day when I was a kid” — Old Fourth Ward community member

“It is so refreshing to see Black faces advocating for outdoor play and education for our youth.” — Old Fourth Ward community member

“Thank you for allowing us to learn more about your organization through this event. We can’t wait to partner with you all.” — Amphibian Foundation

 

CHICAGO:

The Nature Conservancy sponsored Organic Oneness’ (OO) Be the Healing: Reparations Conference to celebrate Thrive Outside Day in Chicago. The conference explored innovative approaches to reparations including restoration, repair, and healing at the individual, community, and institutional levels, inclusive of policy changes. Over the course of three days, Dr. Joy DeGruy and Dr. Bahia addressed the historical harm and trauma of racism and colonization through an inspirational and solution-oriented global lens. Chicago community leaders led community tours addressing various ways reparations are being carried out within the ecosystem of their neighborhoods. By addressing racism, trauma, and healing as a collective, Chicago will be more successful in decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors within education, employment, general health, family structures, and community networks. Learn more about Thrive Outside Chicago.

 

DETROIT:

Thrive Outside Detroit welcomed the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile to town October 10-12 to celebrate Thrive Outside Day. Youth and their families participated in a paddle on local waters with Wilderness Inquiry staff as well as a range of fun and educational land-based activities. Local partners such as Belle Isle Nature Center, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), Friends of the Detroit River, Detroit Outdoors, Friends of the Rouge River, and US Forest Service Urban Connections all pitched in to help students experience Belle Isle, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, and DPSCD’s own Camp Burt Shurly. Learn more about Thrive Outside Detroit.

“They can have this powerful experience and then want to come back to this park with their family,” Dempsey says. “They might be the one that says, ‘Hey, let’s go down that trail. I actually know what’s down there. Let’s go see this beaver lodge that’s down there because I did that when I was here last October.’ So they can become the leaders for their friends and their family when they come to this park because they’ve got this relationship with this park.” — Garrett Dempsey, program director of Detroit Outdoors

“There is so much research that supports not only that kids being outside and enjoying nature allows them to bridge connections to what they’re learning in the classroom, but also just from a personal development perspective—for them to have an opportunity to go out of their comfort zone. It’s so formative in their development.” — Monica DeGarmo, teacher at the Academy of the Americas

 

GRAND RAPIDS:
Thrive Outside Days kicked off on September 24 with an open house at the gear library. Three additional events were hosted in October focusing on building community, especially in the neighborhood around the gear library. Activities included camping workshops, music, gear library tours, kayaking demos, bonfires, and walking local trails. Learn more about Thrive Outside Grand Rapids.

 

MAINE:
The ECO-BIPOC Thrive Outside Day Maine event was hosted on November 19 at Bradbury Mountain alongside The Third Place. Attendees shared joy, built connections, and hiked together. In addition, the Thrive Outside Maine community sent free State Parks passes to over 235 BIPOC individuals and organizational leaders in Maine, to acknowledge the barrier of cost and the community commitment it takes to overcome it when it comes to access to outdoor spaces in Maine. Through their partnership with Outdoor Foundation as well as The Third Place, Bureau of Parks & Lands, Maine Initiatives, Leonard C. and Mildred F. Ferguson Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy, Thrive Outside Maine is taking action to support access to nature for people of color in Maine, in addition to working on broader systems-change efforts. Learn more about Thrive Outside Maine.

“Nature is critically important to my worldview, my relationship with natural ecologies, and how I live my life. Being in Nature has allowed me to surmount intense obstacles in my life, from growing up in poverty, to stress relief from coping with constant racism and othering to the benefits of being active and maintaining better health. The reality for many Indigenous people in Maine is that a significant number of us still live close to the poverty line or below it. While I understand that park fees are necessary to fund maintenance, if we don’t have programs like yours to support access, we are excluding those who may need it most because they don’t have the resources to vacation in beautiful places, or to travel just for enjoyment. I remember growing up, the only state parks I went to were for school trips. We didn’t have vacations, and if we went to visit Nature it was on the river or at a local lake or pond that was free to access. I never went skiing, kayaking, or sailing. I went to a kid’s camp once, because it was subsidized by a church. And of course, I was required to follow church rules, even though I was Indigenous. We should not have to be indoctrinated into a religion just to get a chance to go to summer camp.” — Mihku Paul

“Being away from home and family is quite hard. Nature connects me to experiences that I had when around the family or activities we used to do. The beach, the trees, the birds…” — Manuel Cruz

“I am at peace and tranquility when walking in nature.” — Hana Tallan

 

OKLAHOMA CITY:

Thrive Outside OKC celebrated Thrive Outside Day all month long in conjunction with RIVERSPORT’s Outdoor October initiative. Events included the Oklahoma Regatta Festival, Biketober, Dogtober, and the Red Coyote Half Marathon. Partner organizations included USRowing, Yukon BMX, Country Roads Animal Rescue, and Red Coyote Running & Fitness. Activities included rowing races, kayak races, family bike rides, BMX races, SUP with your pup, and a half-marathon. Learn more about Thrive Outside Oklahoma City

 

PHILADELPHIA:

Thrive Outside Day Philadelphia was hosted by The Schuylkill River Greenways, Berks Nature, and the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) on Saturday, September 24. The event included a bike ride on the Circuit Trails’ Schuylkill River Trail and an outdoor education event at the turn-around location, Berks Nature’s The Nature Place environmental center in Reading, PA. Learn more about Thrive Outside Philadelphia.

 

SAN DIEGO:
Thrive Outside San Diego hosted a series of Thrive Outside Day events throughout the month of October. Event activities included hikes, mountain biking, yoga, gardening, camping, and more. Thrive Outside San Diego’s steering committee member, the County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, also launched the Experience the Outdoors campaign, which is designed to address equity barriers so that everyone can experience the outdoors. Learn more about Thrive Outside San Diego.

“There’s something so special about starting your day, stretching, and finding balance in a park. The fresh air, the birds singing, even the buzzing of the bees. It just puts your body at ease, and I can’t wait to come back!” — Marie, workshop attendee

“I volunteer to do trail maintenance in the other part of the preserve, but it’s always nice to stop here, say ‘hi’ to the rangers, and see what they put out on their table. It’s hands-on, but I learn a lot just by listening in.”  — Jose, youth volunteer

“It was great to entertain so many excited kids and to see parents reliving their youth. It’s an educational experience that’s also a ton of fun.” — Kyle Icke, Supervising Park Ranger

 

SEATTLE: 

Thrive Outside Day Seattle was celebrated on October 28. More than 30 outdoor recreation organizations, including Washington State Parks, the Service Board, and Braided Seeds, convened to discuss current issues and access barriers to the outdoors, and highlight the great work already happening in this space. This convening was held in preparation for the launch of the Outdoor Recreation Action Team in early 2023, which will build and strengthen the network of diverse organizations focused on outdoor access and equity. Learn more about Thrive Outside Seattle.

 

ST. LOUIS:
River City Outdoors celebrated Thrive Outside Day St. Louis in collaboration with Thomas Dunn Learning Center, the Marquette Recreation Center of the City of St. Louis, Connections to Succes, and The Youth Violence Prevention Council. The block party event took place in Dutchtown, which has some of the highest rates of violent crime in St. Louis and is in the footprint of Cure Violence, a violence prevention program that has been introduced to the city in hopes to calm the neighborhood. Streets were shut down to traffic and the fire Department was also there engaging the community. Non-profit agencies engaged the community and shared about the services they provide. Children and their families enjoyed face painting, a bounce house, games, dancing, and arts and crafts projects that they could take home with them. The highlight of the evening was a group of local street performers who danced and did some amazing fire-throwing tricks. Learn more about Thrive Outside St. Louis.

“This is what community looks like.” — Event participant
“Let’s do this every year.” — Event participant

TWIN CITIES:

Twelve local outdoor organizations hosted Twin Cities Thrive Outside Day on October 8 at Boom Island, located right on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The event celebrated the transformative benefits of the outdoors while engaging Minnesotans to build community and ensure that everyone has equitable access to outdoor spaces and experiences. Participants enjoyed canoeing, urban birding, mountain biking, hiking with plant identification, youth Zumba, fishing, fire building, and equipment demonstrations. Learn more about Thrive Outside Twin Cities.

“I was able to talk to attendees about recreational opportunities on federal lands and the programs available for getting youth and those with permanent disabilities in parks and forests.” — Partner agency

“It was great to connect with the other organizations at the event. I thought the networking was excellent. Looking forward to hopeful collaboration in the future.” — Partner agency

“Oodles and oodles of fun. We went out on the water, and it was fabulously calm and the trees looked fabulous” — Event participant

WASHINGTON, D.C.: 

On Saturday, October 29, members of the Anacostia Park and Community Collaborative and Washington, D.C. Thrive Outside coalition partnered to engage Ward 7 and 8 youth and families in a day-long celebration of family, nature, and the harvest season. This event was co-planned with community input and included a pumpkin and turkey giveaway, Trunk or Treat, and live music featuring Bela Dona, an all-girl, local favorite Go-Go band. Other activities included fishing, boating, skating, and seasonal craft-making. The overall goal of the day was to activate stressed DC residents in safe, meaningful outdoor engagement in Anacostia Park. Learn more about Thrive Outside D.C.

“This is an awesome way to end the season with the community.” — Event participant

“I am so happy I came down here, I did not even know this park was here” — Event participant

2022 Special Report on Hunting and the Shooting Sports

Download Now

The 2022 Special Report on Hunting and the Shooting Sports provides a comprehensive look at the more than 30 million Americans ages 6 and over who participated at least once in hunting or target shooting with both firearms and archery equipment in 2021. The report identifies trends and includes detailed information about participation including motivations, barriers, and preferences of participants. Highlights from the report include: Hunting:
  • 4.6 percent of the U.S. population ages 6 and over went hunting at least once
  • 27 percent of participants were female, up from 16 percent a decade ago
  • Share of hunters who were Black or Hispanic increased 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively, on average for the past 3 years
  • “For food/meat” was the number one motivation for hunting
  • 49 percent of hunters first participated before the age of 18
  • 68 percent of hunters were introduced to hunting by a family members
Firearms Target Shooting:
  • 6.2 percent of the U.S. population ages 6 and over participated in target shooting
  • 32 percent of participants were female, up from 25 percent a decade ago
  • Share of target shooters who were Black or Hispanic increased 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively, on average for the past 3 years
  • “For recreation” was the number one motivation for target shooting
  • “High cost” was the number one barrier reported for target shooting
Archery Target Shooting:
  • 2.4 percent of the U.S. population ages 6 and over participated in archery
  • 39 percent of participants were female, the highest since 2016
  • Archers are slightly more diverse that firearms target shooters
  • “For recreation” was the number one motivation for target shooting
  • 19 percent of participants shot solely on public property/ranges
This special report was developed by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and the Outdoor Foundation.