Working to Create an Inclusive Outdoors
There is no roadmap that makes an organization more diverse, equitable, and inclusive overnight, but we will continue to put in the effort to make real improvements.
In January 2020, the Trail Conference Board approved the organization’s first formalized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Policy. In June, we further acknowledged the need to make our organization more representative of the diversity of the region in which we live. With a mostly white staff and volunteer leadership, we are missing the voices and experiences of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities as we attempt to accomplish our mission. Board, staff, and volunteers that resemble the faces of our region—encompassing all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, nationalities, and socioeconomic classes—allow us to better understand the needs of all trail users, particularly the challenges that stand in the way of safe, enjoyable access to nature. It allows us to better connect with people who are underrepresented and to engage them more meaningfully in protecting the land they love.
The Trail Conference’s DEI Working Group, formed in July, is building our foundation for this change, including defining organizational goals. The working group meets monthly and is comprised of various Board members, staff members, and frequent special guests. To better educate ourselves and help others understand what we are working towards, we have been compiling a collection of resources at nynjtc.org/content/diversity-outdoors.
Additionally, a group of Trail Conference staff members and our Board Chair are attending a new anti-racism training series designed and led by Yancey Consulting in partnership with the Dodge Foundation. This series is a five-month collective journey designed to provide invaluable tools and a prioritized action plan to guide our organization’s commitment to change into transformative action.
The Trail Conference has also formed an internal discussion group to create opportunities to increase awareness and build an inclusive culture. Participants are members of the organization’s staff, Board, and volunteer community. Readings have included So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and Black Faces, White Space: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney.
The work is difficult. There is no roadmap that makes an organization more diverse, equitable, and inclusive overnight, but we will continue to put in the effort to make real improvements.