The outdoors has always been my happy place — a place where I can relax, let go, seek out adventure, and find space to breathe.
Whether I am trail running under a canopy of green leaves, taking a dip in a nearby swimming hole, or mountain biking through the lush maple jungle, I am met with a deep sense of gratitude. This gratitude stems from the fact that I live in a place where access to the outdoors is all but guaranteed for me.
And as I duck and weave my bike through the dense fern understory that blankets the woods this time of year, I am reminded that my access to miles of multi-use trails was not built overnight. Stowe is conveniently located at the base of Mount Mansfield and is host to a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities. Historically, Stowe has also been forward-thinking, in that our leaders saw the value in public outdoor recreation and capitalized on our diverse natural terrain.
Our success as a trail organization and the trails I ride every day were built on the backs of the leaders who came before me, who had the foresight to see that trails and public green spaces build community during good times and bad. During this unusual and trying time in human history, access to green spaces has become essential for so many around the world.
The generosity of our land access partners and their willingness to support our shared vision of promoting outdoor recreation is a constant source of inspiration to me and our organization.
Even though the outdoors may be a place that some people visit in order to decompress or become the best version of themselves, simply being outside has historically been a challenge for ethnically diverse communities and people of color. And the more outdoor spaces become a necessity during these challenging times, the more passionate Stowe Trails Partnership becomes about working diligently to create a welcoming trail community for everyone, forever. We cannot succeed without one another — our humanity is tied together, and one of the areas we can influence most directly is through our organization.
Now is certainly a time for action; so, in addition to our member and volunteer-driven committees — such as the Trails Committee — we created a new Equity and Inclusion Committee. This new committee was created to formalize our commitment to the issues of equity and inclusion within our organization and the outdoor recreation community at large, and to pursue strategic avenues that support and improve these topics in our membership and programs.
There is so much more work to be done, but we can start by increasing our commitment to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoors by four action items — listening, advocating, partnering and promoting — and we hope to be held accountable to these terms through our community of members and trail users. I implore you to join us in this work, as it is urgent that each of us to do our part to lead in this transformation.
After all, everyone deserves to have the outdoors be their happy place.
Thanks for being on this ride with us.