Community| 4 min read

5 Programs Making The Outdoors More Inclusive

Learn about five amazing outdoor inclusivity projects that are improving access and representation for womxn and BIPOC folks in the outdoors
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While the great outdoors should be a place for everyone to enjoy, outdoor spaces and activities are often dominated by white folks with financial privilege, while excluding people of colour. In the United States, 70 percent of people who visit national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national parks are white.

This unequal access to the outdoors is because of many things — less access to outdoor spaces in lower-income neighbourhoods, threats of violence against BIPOC folks in the outdoors, minimal representation of BIPOC folks in outdoor leadership positions and outdoor media as well as income disparities that make it difficult to afford the costs of outdoor activities.

Because of these inequalities we are seeing a rise in projects and events aiming to improve access, representation and opportunity in the outdoors. There are inclusivity programs for folks with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ folk, female-identifying folk and BIPOC folk. Let’s take a look at five inclusivity programs across Canada and the United States intended to improve inclusivity in the outdoors for BIPOC communities.


1. Outdoor Afro



Outdoor Afro is an American not-for-profit foundation that focuses on connecting black folks to nature, inspiring African American leadership, protecting land and highlighting contributions black folks are making in natural spaces. This foundation has events and programs in 56 cities across the US and is building a network to connect folks interested in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing, and more.

Outdoor Afro has an excellent leadership program where folks can learn about trip planning basics, the health impacts of nature, conservation ethics, risk management, and social media engagement. These leaders also learn about bringing forward Black voices and narratives and telling unknown stories about Black connections to outdoor areas. Outdoor Afro also has a program called Making Waves to help Black children and their caregivers learn to swim. If you are interested, you can sponsor a swimmer with a Swimmership (aka a swim lesson scholarship).


2. Brown Girls Climb



Brown Girls Climb (BCG) is a social enterprise that focuses on amplifying the representation and visibility of Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color in climbing. They value responsible and reciprocal recreation, diverse and collective leadership and holistic education. This enterprise has many components: improving accessibility to climbing, providing educational resources, offering employment opportunities and an inclusive marketplace.

BCG offers community events, affordable climbing memberships, discounts for gear and scholarships to make the space more accessible. They focus on increasing education for BIPOC and allies with a monthly ally education newsletter and resources about anti-Asian violence and unlearning anti-blackness.

When you sign up you can join their email chain that shares job opportunities, grants and scholarships and BCG also offers employment and internships for women of colour. Their marketplace was created to provide an alternative shopping experience for outdoor gear. You can filter by ownership (women, BIPOC, non-binary, LGBTQ2IA, immigrant-owned), responsibility (social impact and environmental impact) and fit (plus-sized, disability friendly and gender-inclusive).


3. Project Love Run



Project Love Run (PLR) was started in Toronto in 2016 by Filsan Abdiaman and has since expanded to Edmonton, Montreal, Victoria and Vancouver. The project intends to create a safe space for all self-identifying womxn to exercise (through group runs), discuss womxn’s issues and cultivate self-love. Their mission includes 4 principles – Connect, Run & Brunch, Love and Heal & Grow. In action, these principles look like creating a space for womxn to connect, having meaningful conversations about self-love and womxn’s issues and advocating for physical and mental wellbeing. Every month there is a new discussion theme about ‘taboo’ or stigmatized topics that drive that month’s conversations.

PLR also has an amazing blog that highlights self-care practices, celebrating bodies and BIPOC voices. Their Instagram is also full of great educational tools discussing things like intuitive eating and weight stigma and introducing questions for self-reflection such as ‘Is my Mind listening to my body-talk?’ and ‘What can I give to myself right now?’. This project is an excellent way for people with no running history, or a ton of practice, to join other womxn in a safe space that fosters exciting discussion and self-growth.

*The term Womxn is used in feminist practice, particularly intersectional feminism, to avoid sexism from the inclusion of the term ‘men’ or ‘man’ and to include trans and non-binary womxn.


4. Latino Outdoors



Latino Outdoors is a program based out in the United States that focuses on making the outdoors a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for Latino communities. They prioritize including Latino values, history, heritage and leadership in the outdoor narrative. A large part of their mission is decolonizing nature by focusing on economic equality, community wellness and social and environmental justice.

This project has three primary programs – outdoor engagement, storytelling and communication and leadership training. Their outdoor engagement events range from hiking, camping, backpacking, swimming, fishing and climbing. In addition to their in-person programs, Latino Outdoors has an excellent blog Yo Quento where individuals share their stories about outdoor engagement, conservation and environmental education. They also have a collection of films discussing outdoor equity, conservation and community.


5. Colour The Trails



Colour the Trails is a project founded in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, BC designed to increase inclusivity and representation in outdoor spaces for BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ folks. This project subsidizes outdoor activities and provides mentorship for folks with the intention of removing barriers to access. These programs run across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Colorado and many of them require no experience or are beginner-friendly. Their outdoor programs include things like windsurfing, running, biking, backcountry camping, dragon boating, hiking and more. Check out their blog to learn more about their amazing events.


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