The Weekly - June 2, 2020 - 11


increasingly tricky without guidance from the Department of the
Interior. While the department
has provided news briefs on how
different public lands will be
reopened in phases-mostly with
reduced staff, limited amenities,
and restrictions on certain areas
that will lessen over time-there
has been no information on how
to access, recreate, and act responsibly in these public lands.
This dilemma is particularly concerning to Estee Rivera,
executive director of Rocky
Mountain Conservancy (RMC),
who anticipates many challenges
in trying to aid first-time Rocky
Mountain National Park visitors
without the ability to operate the
nature centers, field tours, and
outdoor education normally provided. "How do we impart conservation values on them without
being able to be there with them
in person?" she wonders. "The
messaging people are getting is
so variable."
In the absence of a central
authority and clear directives, a grassroots movement
has stirred within the outdoor
industry. Nonprofit coalitions
have formed; sports-based
advocacy groups have pivoted
their outreach; environmental
conservancies are getting evermore creative with education
and fundraising; and community organizations are adopting
new public health information
roles. "This is a huge opportunity
to shift the way we get outside
forever," Boué says.
Despite the virus' calamity,
Mindy Riesenberg, director of
marketing and communications
at Grand Canyon Conservancy
(GCC), believes 2020 offers a
prime opportunity to pause and
talk about protecting and preserving national parks. "People
are more attuned to making sure
things stay as they are for future

people," she says.
During this tumultuous transition, nonprofits are stepping
up education efforts to address
the current surge in interest
in outdoor recreation. This increased participation is complicated by the fact that there will
be fewer park employees and
rangers, plus there are already
multibillion-dollar maintenance backlogs. The Access
Fund, Surfrider Foundation,
PeopleForBikes, Discover Boating, International Mountain
Biking Association, and many
more advocacy groups have all
published sports-specific guidelines intended to educate their

around the world and includes
nearly half a million people
across multiple platforms and
mailing lists, GCC has adapted
its educational measures. Normally, this time of year, GCC
would push digital campaigns
highlighting its Hike Smart
program, which educates Grand
Canyon visitors on safe hiking
measures (like carrying enough
water and salty snacks into the
hot belly of the canyon). Now,
however, GGC is applying its
Hike Smart philosophy to hikes
all over the country and sending
out more general information.
"Wherever you live, you can go to
that park and be respectful when


respective audiences on proper
behavior no matter where they
are. Community-based groups
like Outdoor Afro, Latino
Outdoors, and Native Womens
Wilderness have been sharing
policy updates and public health
information across their social
media channels. Still, many general outdoors users and those
looking for activities to do in
nature while urban attractions
are still closed rely on on-site
educational services like park
employees or visitor centers,
which will likely not be available
for weeks or months to come.
"The need for us to support
the park is even greater than
before," Rivera says.
Like RMC, GCC has stepped
up to help educate potential visitors about new recreation guidelines. Through its robust social
media reach, which extends

you visit," Riesenberg says.
If visiting a popular recreation
area, Riesenberg recommends
getting creative. When an overlook is crowded, "drive on," she
says. "I've been telling people: Do
[a sequence of overlooks] backward-breeze past the crowded
viewpoints; come back to those
later." She also suggests taking
selfies. "People might not even
think about it and ask others
to take their pictures, but don't
hand them your phone!" she says.

groups' education efforts, there
are still gaps that a piecemeal
response to a piecemeal issue exposes. The Recreate Responsibly
Coalition hopes to not only fill in
those gaps, but also to provide a
streamlined and standardized
approach to the outdoor industry's transition back to recreation

and outdoor access. "We all have
some really hard decisions to be
making," Boué says. "We're all
going to be making some mistakes and crossing some boundaries. The outdoor industry just
needed someone to say, here it is;
here's our guidance."
The Recreate Responsibly
Coalition started in Washington
and quickly caught the interest
of Outdoor Industry Association,
REI, and the Outdoor Alliance,
among others. Now composed
of dozens of nonprofits, outdoor
businesses, and land managers
(with more in the process), the
coalition has published a set of
best practices to help people
make decisions about how,
where, and when to recreate
outdoors. By noon on launch day,
the #RecreateResponsibly social
media campaign, led by Boué,
had reached more than 5 million
people. The campaign reached 17
million people by Memorial Day.
"You can't expect people to
uphold principles they've never
heard of before," Boué says.
"If you can make information
accessible, you do the work of
eliminating the opportunity
for someone to say, 'I didn't
know that.'"
The coalition advises folks to
stay close to home, slow down,
choose low-risk activities, pack
out all garbage, and practice
social distancing. If a trail is
crowded, go to Plan B. If facilities are closed, don't use them.
While guidelines may feel like
common sense to some, Boué
says she knows it's been helpful
for others to have a set of clear
and agreed-upon rules to follow.
While the world awaits the
pandemic's end, it can be helpful
to find silver linings. "The opportunity to get people activated
is huge, especially in an election
year," says Boué. "Every pair of
boots on the trail is another budding activist."


The Weekly - June 2, 2020

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