Authentic engagement accelerates progress for equitable parks access

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:

ECOSS’ 2021 Year in Review

Due to the pandemic, several projects were put on hold in 2020. Nevertheless, ECOSS persevered and continued to serve diverse communities and small businesses. 2021 was a year of growth for ECOSS, with greater female representation in management and promotions of people of color into senior leadership positions. And as public health restrictions loosened, ECOSS’ trusted approach of in-person outreach returned. ECOSS programming served 429 community members and 422 businesses in 2021! Check out the summary of the year in this printable summary sheet.

And take a deeper look at the year’s highlights below:





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You can also support ECOSS and the environmental equity work we do by donating.

Meet Hawa: Budding environmental steward

Hawa (middle) getting her hands dirty with planting native shrubs. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

ECOSS has seen many new faces recently. It is always exciting to welcome more passionate voices to the ECOSS family. We were able to connect with one of our newest Multicultural Outreach Coordinators, Hawa Abdullahi, to see how things are going. Hawa is part of the East African community in the greater Seattle area and came to ECOSS after graduating from the University of Washington. She speaks four languages (Oromo, Amharic, Kiswahili, English) and does outreach with the East African and Muslim communities. Here’s some of her thoughts on starting at ECOSS:


How has your first several months at ECOSS been?

I started working at ECOSS September 1st of 2021. After going through the interview and doing research on the organization I felt that I would be able to have a meaningful contribution to my community through the organization. I was really scared when I started because of I came with little to no knowledge regarding environmental health topics. Topic such as food waste laws, rain wise (specifically rain gardens), and electrification of transportation started to intrigued me. They were topics in which the East African community of south Seattle barely had interacted with. The lack of connection in the past with the community, and my lack of background knowledge made it difficult to convey the message at times. It felt like I was reading a script rather than sharing a resource or a passion. As work started to feel heavy in the first two month, I got introduced to stewardship by one of the project manager who wanted to involve East African is restoration work and other opportunities.

How did you develop your interest in environmental stewardship?

The first time I did a stewardship activity was to introduce community members to the Green Job Coalition. A program in collaboration with The Port of Seattle and DIRT Corp. I invited about 5 community member, 2 of them loved restoration work and 3 that never tried it. We spent the day by the lower Duwamish river (by Boeing) learning about the native animals that have returned due to the ongoing efforts of the restoration workers and how our planting for that day was going to affect the land erosion amongst other things.  I knew at that moment that I fell in love with restoration work and work that involved environmental stewardship.

What is/was your role in the Green Jobs Coalition work?

In green Job coalition my main focus was learning. It was almost like a training for me because ECOSS wanted to lead similar programs in the future and unfortunately it was not something they were fully equipped in. I did the hands on training lead by George from The Port of Seattle and Andrew from DIRT Corp. I did have two extra things besides learning which was being the unofficial photographer/videographer of the group and writing a report at the end of every week explaining what we did for the day.

Hawa brought in East African community members to ECOSS’ stewardship event at Seward Park. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

What is your favorite part about working on environmental stewardship?

My favorite part of working on environmental stewardship is getting on my knees and using my hands. I guess that is specifically focusing on restoration work. There is something about a physical change you create that will have a bigger impact for the community you live in and the earth that supports your existence.

Favorite thing you’ve learned (e.g. about yourself, our work, the environment, etc.)?

A favorite thing I learned is that creating small changes will have widespread impact. And that it is important to care for and understand a message you are conveying.


Thanks Hawa for taking the time to share how you’ve been enjoying your work with ECOSS!

Co-creating habitat restoration opportunities with communities of color

Attendance at habitat restoration events is typically dominated by people who are white, affluent, and/or retired. Although these events provide opportunities to connect with nature, there are a number of barriers for low-income and/or people of color to get involved — knowledge gaps, the opportunity cost of working a weekend job, and safety concerns, to name a few.

Fundamental changes to how we approach habitat restoration events are needed to make these outdoors activities more equitable. Over the years, ECOSS has advocated for and implemented compensation models, training and community outreach to make environmental stewardship more inclusive.

This year, ECOSS began working with Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Green Seattle Partnership to further assess community needs and interests around urban environmental stewardship. ECOSS recruited eight community leaders from Vietnamese, Filipino, Bhutanese, Burmese and Latinx communities for focus groups to learn about Green Seattle Partnerships, gather input on how to make stewardship more equitable and help co-create stewardship events. Thus, community members could influence the conversations around environmental stewardship at a broader scale than simply individual events.

ECOSS welcoming participants to the day’s habitat restoration event. Photo credit: ECOSS.

The year’s work culminated at Seattle’s Seward Park. ECOSS brought together 17 community members across Vietnamese, East African and Bhutanese/Nepalese communities for a planting event. In addition to showing people how to plant and mulch for different native plants, ECOSS provided food, hot beverages, and giveaways including: indoor/outdoor plants, tote bags, beanies, and $30 gift cards as thanks for their time and participation.

The focus group greatly supported the event’s success. ECOSS learned which plants were culturally-relevant, what activities were of interest, and how ECOSS and the Green Seattle Partnership should recruit for the event. The preparation also affirmed that the volunteering mindset of the dominant stewardship model doesn’t resonate for people who don’t have the privileges of ample time and resources.

Habitat restoration can be an inclusive activity that resonates with different communities’ connections with nature and stewardship. The key is in meeting underserved communities where they are.

ECOSS’ Sustainable Futures Fest returns Oct 27-29

We at ECOSS loved sharing community and business success stories with you at 2020’s Sustainable Futures Fest. In case you missed it, you can check it out here. ECOSS’ Sustainable Futures Fest returns with more exciting activities in October that highlight how communities and businesses are empowered to be environmentally sustainable.

Tune in for free from your computer or phone each day at noon on Oct 27-29 to catch the festivities!

In solidarity,
ECOSS Family

Rain can’t stop the trick or tree-ting!

Rain has returned to Seattle. For some, that means curling up inside with a hot mug of coffee. For others, it’s an opportunity to be environmental stewards!

Recently, hundreds of volunteers gathered across 19 different sites to celebrate Orca Recovery Day with the Duwamish Alive Coalition. This is the ancestral land and waters of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Duwamish Tribe. They are the first stewards of the land and continue to care for this region.

ECOSS hosted one of the Duwamish Alive sites in partnership with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, inviting communities of color to plant trees at a restoration site in the Rainier Valley. At this site alone, volunteers planted a total of 230 trees and shrubs! Check out some photos from the event below:

Located at the headwaters of the Duwamish River, transforming this site from a blackberry-dominated landscape to one with a diversity of native plants will promote water quality in the Duwamish River, leading to healthier salmon populations and subsequently healthier orca populations. And volunteers have the chance to see that transformation from beginning to end, as this space has had very little recent care. This humble space has the potential to be an inspiration for diverse communities to be lifelong environmental stewards!

Learn more about how ECOSS empowers environmental stewards!

Thank you to Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Duwamish Alive Coalition for your partnership and the Rotary Club for your support!