Group working to get more African Americans to enjoy great outdoors

BY JENNIFER DEMOSS jdemoss@newsobserver.com

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Hikers take in the scenery after descending the steps during the Outdoor Afro trip to Eno River State Park.

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Hikers on the Eno River Outdoor Afro hike take a moment to cool off.

On a hot July afternoon at Eno River State Park in Durham, a group of hikers assembled. The day had been unbearably muggy, and a thunderstorm loomed in the distance. Despite the sweat streaming down a few faces, the group was there for a hike, and they weren’t giving up.

The hikers were part of the Raleigh-Durham network of “Outdoor Afro,” a national organization aimed at getting African Americans outdoors.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Outdoor Afro’s conception in Oakland, California. Yanira Castro, the nonprofit’s communication director, said that last year Outdoor Afro connected about 35,000 people in the United States with nature through activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing and cycling.

Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp first started what she called “a kitchen table blog” on her outdoor activities out of her Oakland home. She explained how she developed a love for the outdoors through her adoptive parents, who had left the Jim Crow South in the 1940s and built a rural paradise north of Oakland.

Mapp said the blog came about after she noticed that she didn’t always see a lot of other African Americans enjoying the outdoors or see many representations of that in advertising. When interest in her blog began to pick up, she put out a call for more African American leaders to begin guiding outdoor trips.

“I think there are these old stereotypes of black people that black people don’t swim or camp,” Castro explained. “Outdoor Afro shows people there are other people like you who you can go outside with and feel comfortable. We say it’s like finding your tribe.”

Beky Branagan was one of the first Outdoor Afro leaders, and she’s been exploring nature with participants in the Triangle area for eight years. The Raleigh-Durham network now has more than 3,000 members.

Branagan recalled an OA trip to hike Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the hikers wasn’t in the best shape and decided she would rest on a bench while the rest walked to the top. But as the group was enjoying the view from the top, strangers began telling them the woman who had stayed behind was now headed their way.

“All of the people that just happened to be climbing that day were cheering her on her way up Clingmans Dome and she made it up,” said Branagan.

 

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Rich in Surprises and Secrets, There’s a State Park Waiting for You

Across the Western United States, you’ll find them in all shapes and sizes, and often close to home, in part because President Lincoln thought everyone should have access to nature

By Peter Kujawinski

  • July 29, 2019
The sun sets at Bannack State Park in Montana.

On a cold and damp Iowa evening last October, I sat in a tent and thought about Abraham Lincoln. More precisely, I thought about Lincoln signing a minor piece of legislation deeding the Yosemite Valley to the state of California. It happened in 1864, while the Civil War raged. 

It is important because of just a few words. California was given ownership of Yosemite on the condition that the land “be held for public use, resort, and recreation.” This was the official approval of a remarkable and radical idea: Everyone should have access to nature. It led to our ecosystem of national and state parks, wilderness areas and nature preserves — all generally committed to providing this access. 

And it came at a time when President Lincoln presumably had a lot on his mind. Did he realize his signature would transform America’s relationship with nature?

That October night, I was camping in Iowa’s Waubonsie State Park, just one park among the many thousands now scattered across the United States. It was near the tail end of a yearlong mission to visit as many state parks as possible. (Final tally: 53.) This article, the second on state parks, focuses on those I visited in the western part of the country.Part 1: Parks in the Eastern U.S.

Waubonsie is a small state park in the southwestern corner of Iowa, near Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. I didn’t know anything about it, except for reviews saying it was a good place for a picnic. I figured it’d be a few lonely trees surrounded by corn. What I found truly astounded me, and emphasized what I love most about state parks: You never know what you are going to find.

In this 1,990-acre state park, I found an ancient forest on a plateau, an island of mysterious trees in the middle of a vast agricultural region. A secret in plain sight. Waubonsie, as it turns out, is the result of glaciers melting and rushing down the nearby Missouri River. Silt from these glaciers has piled up in mounds large enough to become their own landforms, here called the Loess Hills. There are only two places in the world where this topography exists: the region where I was camping, and the Yellow River valley in China.

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Second in a series in the NY Times. First one:Wherever You Are, There’s a State Park NearbyJune 5, 2019

New York City’s Largest State Park Opens up in Brooklyn

In an attempt to promote outdoor activities, NYC’s new state park introduces impressive facilities and an even better view

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Cloudless skies, a spread of sandwiches and lemonade, a friendly game of frisbee and a light read; why not trade in the overdone routine of binge-watching Netflix for a relaxing day at the park? Especially a brand new one, yet to explore. New York City’s largest state park is now open to public use, just a brisk walk away for all Brooklyn residents. Sprawling across a massive 407 acres, Shirley Chisholm state park is named after the first African-American woman ever elected to congress.  With a bayside pier and a 10-mile trail dedicated to hiking and trekking, people can participate in active exercises or just gawk at the panoramic view of the Empire State Building over their picnic spread. Additionally, the park also has waterfront access for those who want to try their hand at kayaking. 

The state park received generous funding of $20 million under the first phase of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative. The second phase will potentially feature amphitheatres for live performances, environmental education centres, and a connector Bridge linking Pennsylvania and Fountain properties. It is a part of the state’s efforts to build 34 new and improved parks, community gardens, playgrounds, and recreation centres within 10 minutes distance for Central Brooklyn residents. Public meetings to discuss the design of phase 2 will begin in the fall of 2019, which is expected to be completed in 2020 and 2021.

According to the governor, state parks are central to New York’s thriving economy as these state-of-the-art natural treasures attract millions of tourists, as well as New Yorkers for entertainment, exercise and community engagement. He added that this investment will significantly enhance the facilities of the state parks, promote outdoor activities and lift up the local economy.

London becomes world’s first ‘National Park City.’ What does that mean?

The UK capital is the the first city to sign on to a new drive to convince cities and their residents to be greener, healthier, and wilder.

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On Monday London will be officially confirmed as the world’s first National Park City. Saturday kicks off a free, eight-day festival celebrating the city’s outdoor spaces. Along with the Mayor of London, organisations and individuals will sign a London National Park City Charter demonstrating their support for making the city greener, healthier, and wilder.

Newcastle upon Tyne will also be launching its campaign for that city to become the United Kingdom’s next National Park City. Glasgow, Scotland has already started its campaign.

The National Park City Foundation (NPCF), in partnership with World Urban Parks and Salzburg Global Seminar, created the first International Charter for National Park Cities (NPC). While London is the first, NPCF is aiming to name at least 25 National Park Cities by 2025 and is already in discussion with other UK and world cities to help them gain NPC status.

The NPC idea is all about making cities greener, healthier, and wilder, says Daniel Raven-Ellison, a geographer and National Geographic explorer who originated the concept six years ago.

“What an amazing moment for London. Celebrating, honouring and recognising the biodiversity and greenness of this great city,” said Jayne Miller, Chair of World Urban Parks. It’s a challenge to cities around the world to venerate, protect, and increase the green spaces, Miller said in a statement.

“We’re pretty excited about the NPC concept at the IUCN,” says Russell Galt, Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Urban Alliance. “I was confused at first about it. IUCN has no category for it,” says Galt in an interview.

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Gov. Cooper (NC) signs bill to officially create Pisgah View State Park

Karen Chávez, Asheville Citizen TimesPublished 4:40 p.m. ET July 20, 2019

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It’s official. Buncombe County will get its first state park, where residents will get a front-row seat for viewing Mount Pisgah and watching wildlife, hiking ridge lines, and maybe even take in a horseback ride.

On July 19, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law SB 535, authorizing the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to create Pisgah View State Park, which will be roughly 1,600 acres, sitting mostly in Candler, with a small parcel in Haywood County.

Earlier in the month the governor also signed into law two bills creating the Northern Peaks State Trail in Watauga and Ashe counties, the Wilderness Gateway State Trail in the South Mountains range in McDowell, Rutherford, Burke and Catawba counties, and the Overmountain Victory State Trail reaching across Avery, Mitchell, McDowell, Burke, Rutherford, Polk, Caldwell, Wilkes and Surry counties.

Mount Pisgah can be seen in the distance from Pisgah View Ranch, the site of what is set to become North Carolina's newest state park.

Mount Pisgah can be seen in the distance from Pisgah View Ranch, the site of what is set to become North Carolina’s newest state park. (Photo: Courtesy of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy)

“These new parks and trails will conserve important wildlife habitats and support North Carolina’s flourishing outdoor recreation industry,” Cooper said in a statement.

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Just Seeing Green Space May Ease Cravings for Alcohol, Cigarettes, Junk Food

    By Janice WoodAssociate News EditorLast updated: 14 Jul 2019  ~ 1 MIN READ A new study