Many immigrant and refugee communities face challenges when it comes to exploring local parks since many places require access to a car to visit. This year, ECOSS incorporated Metro’s Community Van service into our Transit to Nature programming and led guided day trips to different spots around the greater Seattle area, including Snoqualmie Falls, Seward Park, and more. The Community Van is a service provided by King County Metro that allows you to reserve a van and schedule a ride with a volunteer driver, or if you are trained as a driver, drive the van yourself! This program is excellent for communities who are interested in getting outdoors with family or a group of friends. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

The most recent ECOSS-led community van trip was to Deception Pass State Park with members of the Danny Woo Community Garden. ECOSS’ Program Manager for outdoors access, Xiaoxi Liu has collaborated with the garden in many capacities, but the relationship between the Danny Woo Community Garden and ECOSS goes way back; in the past, ECOSS even worked together with a community member, Mr. Liang, to get cisterns installed in the garden.  

“When I first met KaeLi, the Danny Woo Community Garden manager, and introduced our programming, she expressed interest in many projects, but especially the trip to go outdoors. A lot of the gardeners are retired, and since they don’t know how to drive or don’t feel comfortable driving the highway, and their kids are busy working, there’s very little chance for them to go further. After having organized other events at the garden and seen their enthusiasm in supporting us, we thought it’d be a great way to give back to them. This trip gave something concrete and beneficial to community members.”  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager
Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

On a cloudy Monday morning in late August, Xiaoxi and Ernest picked up the gardeners from a location in the International District that was convenient for everyone, and they were quickly on their way to Deception Pass! Together, they walked along the beach, in the forest, and along the cliffs of the trail to Lighthouse Point. The trail offered a vast diversity of landscapes, plants, and views of the bridge. They also saw a huge tree with an opening, and everyone got so excited and wanted to have their photos taken inside the tree. It was so joyful. Afterward, the group shared lunch together near the beach. 

Photo credit: Jules Jimreivat, Brave Space Media

“One participant brought her homemade cakes, food, and fruit, and kept asking us to eat. It was so heartwarming to be surrounded by a culture that is so familiar. It felt like I was with family. Food is always the bridge in Chinese culture. When Chinese parents want to show love to their kids, they don’t say “I love you”, they say “eat more”.  

Xiaoxi Liu, ECOSS Program Manager

At the end of the day, the group was very happy about the trip. They loved the place Xiaoxi and Ernest chose, and the ease of transportation with the Community Van. “They thought it was a perfect day, and would love to attend more trips. The elders mentioned wanting to go to Leavenworth, to go see the holiday lights and parade. I would also love a trip to Vashon, taking the ferry with the van must be so cool” Xiaoxi shared. With Community Van, the possibilities are endless!

ECOSS’ Transit to Nature programming is supported by King County Parks, King County Metro, and the Wilderness Society 

The International Examiner published an op-ed “The outdoors should be more accessible, our aunties need its benefits too” written by our Program Manager, Xiaoxi Liu. Read it here.