WASHINGTON – The National Park Foundation today announced the official launch of ParkVentures within the organization’s Outdoor Exploration initiative. ParkVentures supports programs and activities that help people create and strengthen life-long relationships with national parks, with a focus on communities that have been historically excluded from parks and may not feel a sense of belonging in the outdoors.
“The National Park Foundation recognizes that many factors can hinder people from connecting with and being inspired by national parks,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Through our new ParkVentures program, the National Park Foundation is investing in leaders and organizations who are removing barriers and bringing people together for joy-filled and meaningful experiences outdoors.”
This new program supports the National Park Service’s mission by expanding access to the outdoors and connecting more people to the benefits of nature.
“National parks belong to all of us as Americans, but their full benefit is only realized when everyone has access, feels welcome, and can see themselves represented in parks and the stories they tell,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “Efforts like ParkVentures demonstrate how strong partnerships can advance our goal that everyone has access to the outdoors no matter where they live, how much money they have, or what their background is.”
While ParkVentures is a new National Park Foundation program, the push to advance equity in parks is an enduring cause. ParkVentures now joins numerous efforts across the country, including the Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative[i], to make national parks and public lands more accessible and welcoming to everyone.
“No matter someone’s background, zip code, or disability, every young person deserves the educational, life-enriching experiences that our beautiful public and tribally recognized traditional lands have to offer,” said Ángel Peña, executive director of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project who sits on the leadership team of the Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative. “As a diverse coalition of organizations across the country, the Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative aims to tear down barriers to access and create new points of entry into experiencing the living ecosystems of the great outdoors, and we are excited to see the National Park Foundation supporting this type of work through their new ParkVentures program.”
In its inaugural year, the ParkVentures program is supporting 58 projects that focus on the following core themes that leaders in outdoor recreation and equity spaces identify as barriers:
- Representation: A lack of representation of historically excluded communities among visitors, staff, volunteers, and in materials used to raise awareness about public lands. A lack of representation prevents people from seeing themselves in parks and feeling a sense of belonging.
- Accessibility: A lack of understanding for the spectrum of information and accommodations needed for people, including people with disabilities, to participate in the outdoors. A lack of accessibility inhibits participation and prevents people from feeling a sense of belonging.
- Interpretation: A lack of diverse perspectives in the stories shared and historical figures featured in parks. A lack of interpretation prevents people from having a broad understanding of history, seeing themselves reflected in parks, and understanding how parks connect to their personal identities and lives.
With a primary focus of representation, the National Park Foundation is supporting projects and organizations including:
Indigenous Families Day at Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico.
The Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps crews work on critical projects that support the protection of the sacred resources within Petroglyph National Monument. Many of the crew members are from local Pueblos or Tribes and have deep connections to the resources located within the Monument, yet for some, working on the crew may be their first opportunity to visit the Monument and experience these connections. Indigenous Families Day will bring together Pueblo and Tribal crew members and their families, along with Pueblo and Tribal families and Elders from across the region for a special day of prayer, healing, and reflection honoring their ancestral and ongoing connections to the lands within the Monument.
Camping to Connect at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New York.
The Young Masterminds Initiative brought their Camping to Connect program to parks including Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Camping to Connect is an outdoor learning and mentorship initiative led by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC)[ii] for young men of BIPOC communities living in inner cities. Participants enjoy daylong and overnight journeys to parks to learn fundamental camping and survival skills, while also exploring core values like leadership, cooperation, camaraderie, brotherhood, and accomplishment. Together, these young men broaden their minds, strengthen their confidence, and build enduring bonds, all while connecting to the outdoors in a national park setting.
"The ParkVentures grant provides us with a much-needed financial resource to create a paradigm shift in how BIPOC young men see themselves, changing the narrative of who ‘belongs’ in outdoor spaces, and addressing the issue of nature deficiency in urban youth," said Manny Almonte, president of the Young Masterminds Initiative.
With a primary focus of accessibility, the National Park Foundation is supporting projects and organizations including:
Installing an ADA Compliant Fishing Dock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.
The park will be able to purchase and install an ADA compliant fishing dock for Grand Sable Lake. This dock will help provide a fantastic fishing area for those needing wheelchair access to the park’s shorelines. The dock will also provide an ideal place for the park’s Junior Ranger Angler program, in which park rangers engage kids in interactive fishing activities and conversations about being stewards of local waterways. Beyond fishing, and just as important, this new dock will provide a more accessible option for folks who want to enjoy nature and watch a sunset over a lake.
The Climbing Over Barriers Program at Joshua Tree National Park in California.
Outdoor Outreach’s Climbing Over Barriers program will help increase access to, awareness of, and stewardship of Joshua Tree National Park through rock climbing. Outdoor Outreach will engage youth from historically underrepresented communities, who face significant barriers to accessing national parks[iii]. Through overnight outings to the park, Outdoor Outreach will promote access and inclusion in outdoor spaces, meaningful connection with positive peers and mentors, and a culturally relevant, joyful introduction to Joshua Tree National Park.
With a primary focus of interpretation, the National Park Foundation is supporting projects and organizations including:
Our Home, Our Island Ambassadors Program at Virgin Islands National Park in the Virgin Islands.
This project will engage people in the St. John community as cultural ambassadors by incorporating their stories and experiences into the activities, programs, and resources offered to park visitors. Specifically, the park will create an interactive listening station in their visitor center store and a virtual self-guided listening tour that will share an oral history podcast series that includes interviews with local community members and St. Johnians who served as the park's interpretative and resource management rangers. Additionally, the park will recruit, hire, and train St. Johnians as ambassadors to help engage visitors with the stories of specific sites and trails referenced in the podcast, which was recently produced with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. The ambassadors will also receive mentoring as part of the program.
Summer Parks Program at Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama.
Celebrating its 5th anniversary as a park in 2022, Freedom Riders National Monument’s summer parks program is an eight-week program in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Central Alabama that connects local youth to their community and history through culturally relevant stories at national parks. In addition to Freedom Riders National Monument, youth will also visit nearby parks including Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and Little River Canyon National Preserve. This experience opens their eyes to the myriad ways parks relate to their personal lives and identities, helps them learn about the breadth and depth of national park jobs, and broadens their minds about what a national park can be.
View the full list of NPF ParkVentures grantees for fiscal year 2022.
By supporting affinity spaces and promoting access and a sense of belonging, the National Park Foundation is helping people experience the social, mental, and physical health benefits of spending time outside.
The National Park Foundation is investing more than $1.1 million in ParkVentures grants in fiscal year 2022, including support from ParkVentures founding partner Nature Valley and Outdoor Exploration initiative premier partner Subaru of America and supporting partner Sun Outdoors. Additional support is provided by Apple, American Airlines, EVOLVE Plant-Based Protein, and method.
“At Nature Valley we believe it’s imperative to protect and preserve the outdoors for all - today and for future generations,” said Emily Thomas, president of General Mills Snacks Operating Unit. “We’re proud to partner with organizations like the National Park Foundation to prioritize access and inclusivity so more people and communities can get out there and experience the benefits and beauty of our national parks.”
Individuals, foundations, and companies can support NPF’s Outdoor Exploration initiative, including ParkVentures, by visiting the National Park Foundation website.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation works to protect wildlife and park lands, preserve history and culture, educate and engage youth, and connect people everywhere to the wonder of parks. We do it in collaboration with the National Park Service, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Learn more at nationalparks.org.
[i] The Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E. initiative is receiving grant funding from the National Park Foundation’s ParkVentures program.
[ii] In this press release, the National Park Foundation uses the language Black, Indigenous, and people of color. While the intent is to honor inclusivity and be representative of various ways that people identify, we recognize that this language does not account for all identities. We also recognize the importance and need of specificity in reference to particular communities.
[iii] Outdoor Outreach describes communities that experience barriers to accessing national parks as having less than three acres of parkland per 1,000 people and a median household income below $47,331.