In 2022, Collaboration Had a Major Hand in Outdoors for All’s Victories

As we head into winter, I am welcoming the short days and long nights as an invitation to slow down, rest, and reflect. Walking through my neighborhood park on a crisp cool day, I am filled with gratitude for my nearby parks and public lands, places I go to escape the challenges of motherhood, work, the ongoing pandemic, and the climate crisis on our doorstep. But not everyone has the same easy access to nature that I do.

One-hundred million people in the US, including 28 million children, cannot safely access a quality park within half a mile from their home. Black, Latine, Asian, and Indigenous communities face the greatest disparities in access to parks and open spaces due to a history of racist land use policies. Access to the benefits of nature should not be a luxury for the few, but a human right for all. While we still have a long way to go to close this nature equity gap, the progress we made in 2022 as a Sierra Club Outdoors for All team fills me with hope.

Here’s a look back at some of our team’s accomplishments for which I am particularly grateful:

  • Encouraging More Engagement with the Outdoors: Across the U.S., Sierra Club organizers and outings leaders celebrated National Public Lands Day, the nation's largest single-day volunteer effort, with outings in their communities. A majority of our outings were organized by our Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program, which focuses on bringing youth and adults from marginalized communities into nature. 


Rep. Jimmy Gomez stands for a photo with youth environmental leaders and members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids on May 18, 2022.


  • Empowering Youth Leaders: Youth leaders raised their voices with decision-makers at a Sierra Club-led America the Beautiful listening session with senior leaders in the Biden administration and through meetings with elected leaders on Capitol Hill as part of our annual gathering of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK). We celebrated youth leaders like Uriel Llanas of Detroit and Lily Kay of Dallas with awards for their efforts to expand access to nature for children and youth. We also recognized Rep. Katie Porter of California’s 45th district with the OAK Tree Award for her leadership in connecting kids to the outdoors and as an advocate for the federal Every Kid Outdoors program.
  • Partnering to Get Kids Outdoors: Detroit was selected as a Thrive Outside Community by the Outdoor Foundation. This will ensure our Detroit Outdoors collaborative will be able to expand its efforts to provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors at Scout Hollow and parks in and around the city, as well as in our collaborations with other organizations like SOS Outreach, which provides kids with the opportunity to learn skiing and snowboarding. In Michigan, we also celebrated a record $450 million investment in local parks, including the conversion of an old auto plant to a state park in Flint and a 27-mile greenway in Detroit. 


Participants at a September 2022 joint outing from the Sierra Club and Latino Outdoors Philadelphia chapters learn to start a campfire.


  • Expanding Park Equity: In Philadelphia, through a partnership with the local Latino Outdoors chapter, we’ve managed to welcome more people who have been historically excluded and marginalized into their first experience with camping outdoors. It was also the Pennsylvania Chapter's first camping trip since the onset of the pandemic. 
  • Improving Public Transit to Trails: In Los Angeles, along with our partners in the Nature for All coalition, we secured congressional funding to create two new shuttle bus routes that will run from existing LA Metro stations into the Angeles National Forest, as well as construct shuttle stops and provide visitor services, amenities, and a "Recreate with Respect" education campaign. This project will make public lands easily accessible for thousands more LA residents. On the opposite coast, our Military Outdoors team in New York City has been leading outings alongside partner organizations, like Another Summit, using public transit for elderly and disabled veterans and their families to demonstrate how to access a state park using public transportation and ways to enjoy nature at all levels of mobility. 
  • More Veterans Healing in Nature: In New York state, we partnered with the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services to launch the Outdoor Rx Coalition to identify and mitigate the barriers the military and veteran community faces when attempting to access state public lands and waters. With over one million service members, veterans, and family members across New York, our efforts here are laying the groundwork for future efforts in states across the US. We launched seven new Military Outdoors projects in Sierra Club chapters from Florida to Alaska.


A group of veterans walk the trails at Bear Mountain State Park in New York on a joint Sierra Club Military Outdoors and Another Summit outing on Nov. 26, 2022.


  • Interagency Cooperation: We celebrated the Biden administration’s launch of a whole-of-government approach to promote equitable access to nature, bringing together 10 federal departments and agencies to strengthen “investments in communities who have been locked out of the benefits nature provides.” This work is part of the larger America the Beautiful initiative which promises to protect 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.
  • Federal Task Force Looking at Veterans and the Outdoors: After years of advocacy, the Veterans Affairs department launched an interagency task force to promote the health of veterans on public lands. Our team has been advising the task force and we’re excited to ensure a strong plan that meets the needs of our nation’s veterans is developed and implemented over the coming years. We also launched a Veterans and Military Outdoors Coalition to support this and other national efforts to connect veterans with nature.
  • Removing and Replacing Racist Names: Our Grand Canyon Chapter supported the efforts of the Havasupai Tribe to successfully have a Grand Canyon campground renamed Havasupai Gardens. The Department of the Interior also announced the final replacement names for the nearly 650 geographic features that carried a harmful name featuring a slur against Native American women. It’s a great victory for the Administration that brings all of us another step closer in our efforts to ensure all communities feel welcome and safe enjoying the outdoors.
  • Investments in Our Future: Last but in no way least, the Sierra Club helped to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest US investment in climate, environmental justice, clean energy, and jobs. The IRA, along with investments from the previously passed bipartisan infrastructure law and other sources of federal funding, provide an important opportunity to expand critical nature equity programs in the years ahead.

None of these milestones would be possible without the passion and dedication of our team of staff and volunteers, our partners, and a growing base of grassroots activists who are empowering people in the outdoors and demanding outdoor equity at all levels of government. As we look to solve the climate crisis, racial injustice, and our public health crisis, expanding nature access and equity is a critical solution that cannot be overlooked. I am grateful for everyone fighting this good fight alongside us.

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