Colorado state lawmakers will soon introduce a bill that could help increase access to outdoor spaces throughout the state for underserved communities and diverse youth.
The bill would create a state Outdoor Equity Fund in order to provide financial support for the initiative.
Colorado State Rep. Leslie Herod is sponsoring the bill and released a statement which reads in part: “For far too long, we have seen significant gaps between those who have access to outdoor spaces — whether to adventure, to recreate, or simply to relax and reset — and those who do not. Beyond the question of access, our outdoor spaces have not been inclusive of, or welcoming to, all. That’s exactly why I’m thrilled to champion this legislation, so that our cherished outdoor spaces also become equitable spaces, spaces that are accessible to everyone, inclusive of race, ability, and income.”
Parker McMullen Bushman and Crystal Egli, the founders of Inclusive Journeys, said bias can be a major barrier. Inclusive Journeys is an organization that helps measure how inclusive businesses and spaces are for people of all abilities and backgrounds support the measure.
“I’ve had people say things to me like ‘Well, what are you trying to say? Is nature racist? Are the trees racist?’ And no, of course not. But, when you go into those spaces, you meet other people and those people bring their bias with them into those space. So, there could be a variety of things that effect access. One is how safe do people feel when they enter into those spaces?” McMullen Bushman said.
McMullen Bushman said another barrier is cost.
“Sometimes there is a cost associated with access like passes, which can be prohibitive. Costs like transportation to those spaces can also be prohibitive. Also the gear — outdoor gear is not inexpensive,” McMullen Bushman said.
Egli said if the legislation passes, she hopes the money will be used to support existing organization that are already doing this kind of work.
“I want to make sure that there are organizations out there that are properly being funded, that are from these underresourced communities,” Egli said. “There’s groups like Blackpackers in Colorado Springs… I actually went with them over one of the weekends recently and they paid for everything to go skiing at A-Basin, and there was just such a sense of community."
Egli said most members of the group were people of color. However, Egli said the skiing trip ended with another group of skiiers questioned why her group was there in a negative manner.
Egli and McMullen Bushman said they hope increased access to these spaces will challenge biases and encourage outdoor spaces to work toward greater inclusion.
Other states like New Mexico and California have similar Outdoor Equity Funds in place.