February 28, 2021
Dear Friends,

Today is the last day of Black History Month and I’ve been thinking about the ideas I've explored from so many sources. I’ve also reflected on the past nine months since we posted our Black Lives Matter statement in response to the murder of George Floyd and the steps we are taking to make the park and organization more welcoming.  

Fresh Air For All
In the film Rebels with a Cause then Supervisor Gary Giacomini called Marin the lungs of the Bay Area with its ample open spaces, including our beloved Point Reyes National Seashore. The park’s location in Marin County, however, also impedes how Black and Brown people may feel when visiting. A study from the University of California, Berkeley showed that Marin County has six out of the 10 whitest towns in the Bay Area with a population of 90% or more white people. The reasons for these disparities are complex and rooted in structural, historic, and continuing racism. It's hard to feel welcomed in places where you don't see people who looks like you.

In October we hosted a webinar and conversation with Dr. Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoorsas part of our Park in Place education series. I recently re-watched the program and it reminded me of why our inclusion efforts are so important. Dr. Finney speaks about the need for we humans to improve our relationship with each other if we expect to be able to work together to solve pressing problems like climate change. She also talks about how the dominant white view of who is an environmentalist excludes too many people. The prevailing narrative has, “asked people to assimilate, rather than expand the notion of who belongs.”

Partners Lead the Way
One way that at PRNSA we are working to change this approach is by partnering with nonprofit youth organizations working in communities of color to design multiple visits to foster a continuing connection to the park and nature. These programs are co-developed with our partners to make them interesting and relevant to the youth they serve.

Thanks to generous funding we can provide transportation and pay for the planning and delivery of the programs, but the learning will be two-way. I'm so excited to discover what makes a park visit really impactful to each group as this feedback will inform future programs. I’m grateful to all our partners, including Outdoor Afro and the County of Marin, who I’ve been in touch with recently to advise and support our efforts.  I'm also proud of our staff and board who are working to expand our hiring and volunteer recruitment. Through including a diversity of perspectives at all levels of our organization we can build a park – and world – that is more sustainable.

The Riches of Diversity
I’ve been thinking about why our work to make parks more welcoming is important to me. A deep sense of fairness is at the core, but there is also a bit of a personal reason that I wrote about in my application to West Point a long time ago. I grew up on military bases, and when my dad retired we moved to a small town in northeastern California that was overwhelmingly white. In my college essay I talked about yearning for the community I loved on a base where the houses might all look the same, but the people came from so many different backgrounds. That diversity of experience added a richness to my own experience as a kid that made belonging somehow easier. 

In my conversations over the last month with the park's new superintendent, Craig Kenkel, we've explored topics of social, racial, and environmental justice and I'm encouraged to know we are aligned in our commitment to making Point Reyes National Park a place where all can experience belonging. We both welcome and need voices of people from many backgrounds to help us reimagine our education, conservation, and community building work. Please know I would love to hear your thoughts on how to achieve this important goal.
Donna Faure
Executive Director
The Power of Parks for Health: Black History Month Roundtable is a program hosted by the National Park Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation that explores questions that impact out work including:
• How do we measure success in creating equity and health outcomes through park experiences? 
• How can we help the young people we work with feel safe outdoors?
• How do we promote a sense of belonging at the Seashore?