Interest in outdoor recreation has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, but access to green spaces remains inequitable across King County due to factors such as language barriers, proximity to outdoor spaces, culturally-relevant programming and more.

ECOSS has helped bring community voices to outdoors initiatives through outreach around King County’s Trailhead Direct service and leading hiking trips that are inclusive of immigrant and refugee communities. In 2021, King County Parks, The Wilderness Society and ECOSS took that collaboration to new heights.

ECOSS helped multi-generational families access green space by leading hikes via King County’s Trailhead Direct service. Photo credit: ECOSS.

Centering and empowering community voices

Building on the successes of gathering feedback during Trailhead Direct hikes, the team set out to conduct a community needs assessment dedicated to centering underrepresented voices around the challenges of accessing parks and green spaces. To do so, the three organizations connected with additional community-based organizations and groups to co-create surveys and discussion sessions (termed “Roundtables”) that were culturally-relevant and tailored to different communities. Ultimately, the core team invited an additional 11 community-based organizations that served Black, Latinx, Asian, Muslim, youth, disabled, immigrant and refugee populations.

“We’d like to see the county treating transit safety and greenspace access as interconnected issues intersecting with environmental issues, racial justice, etc. It seems like different issues are addressed in a silo, one by one.” 

—Young Women Empowered roundtable

Community recommendations highlight growth opportunities

From the surveys and roundtable discussions, five key themes arose. Chief among them was how safety concerns using public transit and being within parks discouraged communities’ access to green spaces.

In addition, participants highlighted education & outreach, infrastructure improvements, better representation & inclusion, and continued engagement & accountability from government decisionmakers.

“Better access for disabled people. In other parks outside of Seattle, there are swings that can be used by people and kids with wheelchairs Machines to work out by yourself in the park. Swings for moms that can be used with their babies.”

—ECOSS Spanish speakers roundtable

Authentic partnership was key to the success of this project. From planning to execution to reporting, the team engaged partners to understand how to tailor surveys and provide support for partners to lead roundtables that would center the partners’ communities. Community partners were provided flexibility in how deeply they engaged, and were financially compensated accordingly. Transparency and collaboration built trust with community partners. And these relations will promote the sustainability of the partnerships.

Continuing the community engagement

King County Parks, The Wilderness Society, and ECOSS are engaging various local and regional agencies to discuss how we keep the momentum and bring the community recommendations to life. Additionally, this project highlights the value of We look forward to deeper engagement with community-based groups and more opportunities to fund their work!

Learn more and download the report from ECOSS’ partner, The Wilderness Society:

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