who we are, what we do, and why outdoor equity is important to all of us
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Original advising leadership group.
Who We Are
In 2019, Lisa Wolff, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space Executive Director and Aaron Watson, Mercer County Park Commission Executive Director, convened a Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate questions of Environmental Equity. Their initial invitation to a coalition of leaders from nonprofit, government, and educational institutions read:
“Mercer County has significant green space and natural resources and while public access is available, it is underutilized by more diverse populations. We may explore strategies to be more inclusive and build equity initiatives that promote and facilitate improved health, recreation, education, skills development and employment opportunities.”
The first leadership group met at the Historic Hunt House in June 2019. With the added visibility and public interest in 2020, the coalition initiated “The Outdoor Equity Alliance” and subsequently developed a Strategic Plan.
In 2021, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space officially became the fiscal sponsor of the Outdoor Equity Alliance when they received $50,000 in seed money provided by The Bunbury Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation.
Currently the OEA accepts donations and grants under their EIN ID 22-2810757.
What We Do
What is Outdoor Equity and Why Does it Matter?
Meaningful access to the natural world is a basic human right. Outdoor equity refers to the objective that ALL people have access and opportunity to outdoor activities and natural spaces.
Experience and engagement with nature and the outdoors promotes physical, social, emotional and spiritual health, and instills an appreciation for our world and our environment. When a person has more access to the natural world, they develop a broader understanding of nature’s importance in our lives, and an increased sense of shared responsibility for caring for it.
Today, many children and adults in underserved communities face challenges that limit their ability to get out into our natural environment. These challenges include lack of transportation, lack of resources, lack of nearby green spaces, lack of access to outdoor education programs and experiences, and more. Nationwide these challenges are prevalent in urban centers and in communities of color.
Equitable access to the outdoors also opens opportunities for mentorship and avenues to careers in outdoor recreation, conservation, and the natural sciences, which foster a sense of stewardship of the environment.
Building a more inclusive experience with our natural environment is crucial to protecting our natural resources and our planet. In less than 25 years, the US Census Bureau projects that people of color will comprise more than 50 percent of our nation’s population. One in four adults have a disability. In less than 30 years, 22 percent of our nation will be over 55. The ongoing success of our preservation and conservation efforts will depend on the meaningful participation of a more diverse group of citizens.
How We Do It
OEA uses a three-pronged approach:
- We create experiences,
- We show people why access to the outdoors matters – encouraging and ensuring shared involvement in stewardship and preservation, and
- We work with diverse groups of people and their engagement with the green sector, moving them into careers, continued education and environmental advocacy.
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