2022 Environmental Leadership Cohort Graduate Kristen Walker just started an outdoor campaign! Kristen was so gracious to talk to Soul Trak about Our Parks Too and here is our conversation.
ST: Hi, Kristen, what inspired you to start Our Parks Too?
KW: My involvement with Soul Trak really prompted me to start Our Parks Too. Being a member of the Environmental Leadership Cohort (ELC) gave me my first opportunity at so many outdoor activities. My first camping trip, at Harper’s Ferry, WV, my first white-water rafting experience, at Harper’s Ferry, my first at canyoneering, my first at rappelling at Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The ELC provided a sustained, continued, experience for me to connect with the outdoors in a special way; I didn’t feel like an outsider, I belonged in the outdoors and I also belonged with the group.
ST: What is Our Parks Too?
KW: Our Parks is an initiative to showcase black joy and adventure in our National Park Lands that started in December 2022. The Campaign aims to visit all our nation’s parks in two years.
ST: Why is Our Parks Too important?
KW: For a couple of reasons, I found that there was a feeling among my friends that to see beautiful nature, a person needs to visit another country. Also when I was on adventure trips with Soul Trak such as the Service Week in the Virgin Islands National Park and adventure week at Moab Utah we were the only people of color there. Our Parks Too aims to show black people that they are welcome in the outdoors and by increasing the number of black people recreating outside, we change the expectation of who recreates in our park lands.
ST: Where have you visited, and where do you plan to visit?
KW: We have been to New River Gorge National Park and Reserve in WV, Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, Congaree Park, in South Carolina. We visit one park a month and have Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Acadia National Park in Maine, Sand Dunes National Park in Indiana, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
ST: How can Soultrakkers get involved?
KW: We are building out an education component and are working on including group hikes. Currently my colleague, Diamon, Director of Education, and I bring out one additional friend to a park. We welcome participants to come on hikes with us to local parks. We are still at the beginning of our journey and hope to raise funding for more people to travel with us to distant parks.
ST: Has your involvement with Soul Trak played a role in what you’re up to?
KW: Soul Trak was also instrumental in starting this campaign, not only did I have my first sustained and continued experience in the outdoors, I also met Diamon, my Education Director through our second ELC initiative. She supported our event through All Trails. Soul Trak is also our fiscal sponsor, which means they manage our grant and they partner with The Sierra Club, our funder, to make our work possible!
ST’ How can we keep up with your campaign?
KW: Feel free to keep up with us through our website https://www.ourparkstoo.org/ or here at the Sierra Club https://www.sierraclub.org/outdoors-all/our-parks-too. We hope to see you at a National Park near you!