Refuge Outdoor Festival helps to broaden outdoor spaces

Refuge Outdoor Festival helps to broaden outdoor spaces

Conservation Northwest / Nov 24, 2021 / Events, Recreation

A backyard connection point for People of Color and allies founded in community and admiration for the outdoors

By Kurt Hellmann, Advocacy Associate
Laurel and Kurt staff an information table and talk with Festival participants about bear-safe recreation and wildlife safety tips. Photo: Kurt Hellmann

The Refuge Outdoor Festival is a multi-day combination of workshops and activities meant to bring People of Color (POC) together to share, learn and connect in nature. Painting, music, bird watching, biking, yoga, recreation know-how, deep conversations and much, much more comprised the summer weekend together.

At the Festival this past August, Laurel Baum and I led a workshop around wildlife safety to demonstrate critter-friendly recreation habits while outside. Through facilitating skits and discussion, we found many people love wildlife as part of the outdoor experience. Conversations about food storage and safety during wildlife encounters were met with much energy and curiosity.

For some like myself, recreation was the catalyst for a lifetime love of wild places. How I fell in love with the outdoors began by hiking and climbing around the woods where I grew up. My own “backyard” was the soil for my passion for wild spaces to take root, grow and share with others. Eventually these experiences led me to hold a deep connection to big natural landscapes and a curiosity about the critters found in them.

Participants discuss and demonstrate wildlife safety tips to use when encountering critters on trail. Photo: Kurt Hellmann

Refuge is a connection point for POC and allies to explore passions and connect with others in the outdoors while building safe and inclusive spaces. Hosted here in Washington, Refuge creates the intentional time to gather in community and highlight diversity in recreation and conservation in our own backyards.

It’s no secret that conservation and recreation spaces are largely white and continue to grapple with its history of discrimination. Environmental circles still have much work to do to include and center people of color in white-dominated spaces. It’s through events like Refuge Outdoor Festival that learning, reflection, and a broadening of perspectives can help lead to lasting and inclusive change within the outdoors.

It’s important to recognize and uphold the fact that lived experiences in the outdoors vary widely. Everyone should be able to safely enjoy our natural landscapes unfettered by stereotypes or assumptions based on their skin color, background, or identity. Intentionally expanding the outdoor places where we connect—our own backyards—helps to build the inclusion we need in recreation and conservation going forward.

Conservation Northwest has been a supporter of Refuge since it started in 2018. We are proud to continue supporting the Refuge Outdoor Festival into 2022. Read about our past participation in the Festival in 2018 and 2019.

Stay tuned for more information about next year’s Outdoor Refuge Festival!

Check out REFUGE OUTDOOR FESTIVAL and Learn more about wildlife safety on through OUr WILDLIFE-RECREATION COEXISTENCE PROGRAM
Attendees gather around for the first-ever Refuge Outdoor Festival in 2018. Photo: Heather Hutchison