First Trailhead Direct trip of the season in the books!

Find yourself wanting to escape the city on weekends? Do you enjoy hiking? King County’s Trailhead Direct bus service offers a solution for accessing trails near the Greater Seattle Area and is in its third season of operation.

ECOSS partnered with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society last summer to conduct outreach on Trailhead Direct within communities of color. By leading trips with the Khmer, Bhutanese, Latinx and Korean communities, ECOSS helped build the case to expand Trailhead Direct services, which added stops in Tukwila and Renton this season.

Continuing the momentum, ECOSS is working with Chinese, Vietnamese, Latinx, Bhutanese and East African communities to access Trailhead Direct and nearby trailheads this summer.

Members of Hong Kong, Chinese and other Cantonese-speaking communities recently completed their trip to Issaquah Alps! Check out some photos from the trip:

Most of the Cantonese-speaking participants had not heard of Trailhead Direct before the ECOSS trip, despite being avid hikers. The cloudy morning skies gave way to lush greens as the group embarked up Margaret’s Way Trail. The hikers appreciated the fresh air and ample trees. They even encountered a garter snake on the way up.

Most Trailhead Direct bus stops feature this sign. Unfortunately, it is often missed by those who are unfamiliar. Photo Credit: Joycelyn Chui / ECOSS.

The trip was also an opportunity for diverse feedback. Finding the initial bus stop was a challenge with minimal Trailhead Direct signage at the Eastgate Park and Ride station. Combined with a premature bus departure, the group was forced to catch the following bus… which was practically full before the group of 17 could board.

Undaunted, the group ultimately made their way to the top of the Margaret’s Way Trail. Many commented that they would recommend Trailhead Direct to others despite the challenges they faced.

By now, many King County residents have heard about Trailhead Direct, especially those who regularly take public transit. But the banners, brochures and advertisements don’t naturally reach all residents. Non-English speakers and those who live farther away from transit corridors are much less likely to be exposed to Trailhead Direct.

Access to green spaces promotes individual health and community connections. ECOSS is dedicated to ensuring outdoors access extends to communities of color as well.

More stories on outdoors access here!

A day of sparkling waters and shared reflection

Cedar River waterfall

A waterfall stills hikers with its magical light show. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

Written by Uroosa Fatima, Multicultural Outreach Manager

Living in Seattle, I find it hard not to think about water. Whether it’s twinkling at me from across the bridge or attacking me from the sky, water finds a way to get noticed every day. Surrounded by all these glamorous bodies, I sometimes overlook the city’s best water feature: tap water. A fresh, cool stream that flows reliably whenever we need it.

But why does the tap water here taste so good? The greater Seattle area gets its water supply from two systems, the South Fork Tolt River watershed and the much bigger Cedar River Municipal Watershed. Both of these regions are heavily protected areas and allow minimal access to humans. The watersheds are kept as pristine as possible, so the water requires minimal treatment. Additionally, Seattle is unique among urban American cities for not repeatedly recycling its tap water, which elsewhere leads to flat-tasting water.

Watershed model

Rangers teach the group about the watershed using a model of the region. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

Recently, I got the chance to go see the Cedar River Municipal Watershed on a hike organized by ECOSS in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). The aim of this hike was to introduce some of Seattle’s newer communities to the watershed that feeds their drinking supply. The diverse group included members from the Vietnamese, Chinese, East African and Pakistani communities.

After meeting with the park rangers at Cedar River Educational Center and learning the rules of conduct, the hikers were driven up to the restricted municipal watershed. The watershed is divided into two basins, the larger Chester Morse Lake and the smaller Masonry Pool, which was created as a result of the Masonry Dam. Following the guides the group walked along parts of the dam and saw how the structure is used to generate electricity and regulate water flow.

We stopped over the dam to see how it was used to regulate water, and to take lots of pictures! Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

During their trip, hikers learned more about the function, history and ecology of the watershed from the rangers guiding the excursion. 1.4 million people in the region, and countless iconic species like the Northern spotted owl, Chinook salmon and Grizzly bear depend on this basin for a constant and pristine supply of water. This led to lively discussions among the group and the guides facilitated by multilingual ECOSS coordinators on topics like long term regional season patterns, drought conditions, and the historic importance of the watershed to native tribes.

A lively discussion about the history, cultural importance and value of the watershed. Photo Credit: Zacke Feller.

At the end of the hike, the hungry group returned to the Educational Center for some Banh Mi sandwiches and rest. Many felt that the experience gave them a deeper understanding of where their drinking water comes from and what it takes to keep it clean.

 

Read about other work with New Arrivals!

Thank you Seattle Public Utilities for working with ECOSS to make this insightful trip possible!

ECOSS featured in WIRED article on outdoors access!

WIRED magazine interviewed Multicultural Outreach Manager Allan Kafley about his experience leading community members on outdoors adventures.

Last summer, Allan and other ECOSS staff used Trailhead Direct to increase outdoors access within immigrant and refugee communities. Thanks to the feedback collected from these trips, the service expanded to starting points in Tukwila and Renton. Read about Allan’s experiences and other transit to trails services around the country in the WIRED article:

Check out the article!

Hiking at Cougar Mountain. Photo Credit: Eli Brownell / King County.

ECOSS will again be leading trips with multicultural communities via Trailhead Direct. Look out for more stories!

Expanding accessibility and inclusiveness of outdoors opportunities is a key pillar of ECOSS’ New Arrivals program. The program works from within immigrant and refugee communities to understand their interests and concerns, provide in-language education and lead outdoors experiences that are culturally relevant.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Thank you King County Parks, The Wilderness Society and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for the opportunity to conduct multicultural outreach on Trailhead Direct!

Featured photo by Eli Brownell.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Over 70 Nepali-speaking community members joined ECOSS on snowshoeing trips this year!

Snowshoeing is an iconic winter-time activity in the Pacific Northwest. But immigrants, refugees and other new arrivals to the region may be unaware of the recreation opportunity. Likely fewer still have the requisite equipment and knowledge to undertake this activity. ECOSS’ New Arrivals program helps communities overcome these barriers.

Sunny skies reflect off the snow during an extended snowshoeing hike. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

“It was my first time and I had a blast.” – Bhim Taamang

In partnership with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Washington Trails Association, community leader Allan Kafley organized four snowshoeing trips to Snoqualmie Pass. The trips served over 50 youth, none of whom had been snowshoeing before. Two smaller groups of adults embarked on extended hikes deeper into the wilderness. During each trip, volunteer rangers guided groups through the snow-blanketed landscape while drawing attention to different vegetation. Youth and adults alike reveled in the winter nature wonderland that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

“As I thumped my feet on the slushy snow for miles, breathing the cold fresh air of Snoqualmie and being surrounded by giant mountains made me feel at home.” – Ambika Kafle

The trips also provided insight into an important cultural difference. In the United States, popular outdoors destinations are in such high demand that the environment would irreversibly degrade without intervention. Regulations protect designated wilderness areas so that the public land can be appreciated by future visitors. For example, regulations prohibit the use of certain motorized and mechanized equipment, including off-road vehicles, bikes and chainsaws. For the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, it also means limiting group sizes to 12 or fewer.

Typically, when Nepali-speaking communities gather, they gather in force. The group-size regulations do not exist in their home wilderness. But on the snowshoeing trips, hikers learned about how regulations are preserving nature. Although it is unfortunate for the community members who could not join, the regulations ensure that they will be able to enjoy the wilderness in the future. Thus, the anticipation builds for the next snowshoeing season.

Read about other New Arrivals adventures

Thank you Bhutanese Community Resource Center and South Nepali Class for helping recruit community members. And thank you Washington Trails Association and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Services for supporting these trips.

ECOSS named a leader in environmental excellence

The Port of Seattle honored ECOSS as an Environmental Excellence Awardee!

Video by Port of Seattle with footage and photos contributed by ECOSS and Sam Le.

ECOSS’ programs are as diverse as the communities and businesses it serves. From clean energy to waste management, outdoor recreation to stormwater education, ECOSS provides access to environmental solutions to small businesses and marginalized communities. By working from within the communities that are most-impacted by climate injustices, ECOSS bridges gaps among industry, government and communities in ways that respect people’s cultures and lifestyles.

The Port of Seattle’s Environmental Excellence Award celebrates “the dedication of local partners to engage in healthier communities for cleaner air and cleaner water and to invest in enhanced energy efficiency.”

The Port of Seattle recently honored ECOSS with an Environmental Excellence Award for achievements in environmental equity! ECOSS envisions sustainable businesses and thriving communities supported by equitable environmental solutions. The award symbolizes that ECOSS is on the right track in addressing environmental injustices.

Learn more about ECOSS’ programs.

ECOSS receiving the Environmental Excellence Award with Port commissioners and staff.

ECOSS joined other environmental leaders, including small businesses recognized for their transition to clean energy and transportation heavyweight Lyft that is greening their rideshare service.

Check out the award and other awardees!

Thank you Port of Seattle for honoring ECOSS with this honor. And thank you SVP for nominating ECOSS for the award.

Trailhead Direct Expands to Tukwila

King County’s public transit to trail service returns with an added route!

Trailhead Direct, a King County Parks and King County Metro collaboration, provides a public transit solution to individuals that want to recreate outdoors, but are barred from doing so. Lowering the transportation barrier promotes access to potential hikers who do not own cars, cannot afford the trip or have restricted mobility for driving.

Last year, ECOSS raised awareness of Trailhead Direct within immigrant and refugee communities, leading 65 community members on hikes throughout Washington State.

Hikers all enjoyed their time outdoors and appreciated the convenience, affordability and environmental benefit of taking the bus over driving several cars. At the same time, communities provided valuable feedback to King County on the accessibility of Trailhead Direct. Community members cited challenges in parking at the bus station or pathfinding along the trails. But the most common feedback was the wish to expand the service throughout the county, especially in South Seattle and South King County.

Program Outreach Manager Jose Chi speaking at the launch of the Tukwila Trailhead Direct route. Photo Credit: Ned Ahrens, King County.

King County heard the communities’ voices. This year, Trailhead Direct expands to include a route that services Tukwila and Renton! The route heads to Cougar Mountain and transfers to other Trailhead Direct destinations, including Issaquah Alps, Mt. Si and Mailbox Peak.

Go to Trailhead Direct’s website to learn more about the service. ECOSS is excited to work again with communities to connect to nature!

Learn more about outreach with New Arrivals

Thank you to King County Parks and The Wilderness Society for supporting this work and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for connecting us with the opportunity to make transportation access more equitable.

Header photo by Eli Brownell, King County Parks.

Celebrating Earth Day by giving to nature

In celebration of Earth Day, ECOSS partnered with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to host a Duwamish Alive! event on April 20th, one of over a dozen sites restoring habitat in the Green-Duwamish River watershed. Last October, ECOSS and the Greenway led volunteers in planting 60 native shrubs in the wetland area of the Duwamish Hill Preserve. For Earth Day, many of these volunteers returned to add mulch to the site, further promoting the health of the budding understory.

The Green-Duwamish River is home to five salmon species, coho, pink, chum, steelhead and Chinook. The last of these species is a critical food source for Puget Sound’s iconic Southern Orcas. By volunteering with Duwamish Alive, community members are protecting the health of the Duwamish River from stormwater pollution by building up the shrubs that are nature’s water filters.

It was not easy work, but 25 cubic yards of mulch were no match for the abundant enthusiasm and stewardship pride felt throughout the day. Check out more pictures from the event below, courtesy of Sam Le.

Events like Duwamish Alive are the product of collaborative community ideation and involvement. ECOSS worked with the Bhutanese Community Resource Center and the Environmental Professionals of Color to engage volunteers and provide environmental education that is relevant and fun.

Learn more about how ECOSS lifts up communities of color via outdoors experiences.

ECOSS’ leadership in Duwamish Alive is supported by the Duwamish Alive Coalition, which brings together organizations working within the Green-Duwamish watershed to discuss shared challenges and cooperate on sustainable solutions.

Thank you to the Rotary Club of Seattle for providing the funding that makes work like this possible.

Bhutanese Community Members at Cedar River Watershed

Allan Kafley named a Sustainability Leader!

Congratulations Allan Kafley!

Allan Kafley at Mt Si. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Despite the desire to connect with their environment, immigrant and refugee communities often face language, geographic and lifestyle barriers that limit their access to outdoors experiences. Allan Kafley saw this need within his own community and took the opportunity to spearhead the New Arrivals program in 2014. Allan currently leads this and other programs as one of ECOSS’ Multicultural Outreach Managers.

Tours to the Cedar River Watershed are an excellent opportunity to show new arrivals the source of their drinking water. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

The New Arrivals program provides education, services and experiences to immigrants and refugees newly-arriving in the greater Seattle area. Crucially, the program generates outreach in collaboration with the communities it serves.

For this pivotal role and for being a leader within Puget Sound’s Bhutanese community, Sustainable Seattle honored Allan with a Sustainability Leadership Award!

Until the age of 19, Allan grew up in a refugee camp, where he was not afforded the privilege of self-determination. This changed in 2008 when Allan came to Seattle as one of the city’s first Bhutanese refugees. Spurred by his father’s stories of Bhutanese wilderness exploration, Allan sought out opportunities to engage with the environment and other refugees. He subsequently helped found the Bhutanese Community Resource Center in 2010, which hosts cultural events and connects Bhutanese refugees with resources, education and experiences.

Allan connects the Bhutanese refugee community with opportunities to give back to their environment. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

Joining ECOSS in 2013, Allan has since built awareness of healthy fishing along the Duwamish River, led outdoors trips throughout Washington and improved the environmental health of underserved communities throughout the greater Seattle area. Check out some of his recent projects and features:

Creating opportunities for immigrants and refugees to give back to nature

What does camping mean for the Bhutanese community?

Promoting outdoors access via public transit

New Arrivals program featured as a social innovation

Congratulations Allan Kafley on the award! Your leadership in centering equity in environmental programs is truly inspiring. Join ECOSS in celebrating his accomplishments at Sustainable Seattle’s Campfire Stories.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Multicultural outreach extends green outdoor access to diverse communities

“ECOSS’ ambassador model and community-based work is invaluable and irreplaceable. Their successful outreach is a major achievement of the Trailhead Direct program.” — Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust

Bhutanese community used the Trailhead Direct service to travel to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley, ECOSS.

Over the summer and autumn of 2018, ECOSS led 65 hikers from diverse communities on hikes throughout Washington! For numerous hikers, these trips were only possible thanks to Trailhead Direct, a service launched by King County Parks and King County Metro.

Many immigrant and refugee communities around Puget Sound yearn for opportunities to connect with nature, but face language, cultural and lifestyle barriers to accessing the outdoors. Transportation access is one of the greatest of these barriers.

“Trailhead Direct is a great way to protect our environment by not driving personal cars.” — Bhutanese community member.

King County’s Trailhead Direct service seeks to lower the transportation barrier by providing an affordable alternative to driving to faraway hiking destinations. At the same price point as any other bus ride in the city, a Trailhead Direct bus will drop you off and pick you up at trailheads at Issaquah Alps, Mt. Si and Mailbox Peak. And by partnering with ECOSS, Trailhead Direct reached communities in 2018 that would otherwise have never heard of this transportation option.

Trailhead Direct enabled the Cambodian community to bring all family members hiking, from youth to seniors. Photo Credit: Sophorn Sim / ECOSS.

To help King County learn about the accessibility of Trailhead Direct and improve the service, ECOSS led hiking trips via Trailhead Direct with members of the Bhutanese, Cambodian, Korean and Latinx communities. In partnership with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society, we also developed surveys that gauged participants’ outdoors experience and solicited feedback on the Trailhead Direct trips.

During our outreach, 53% of hikers were new to the activity and 42% were youth or seniors. And regardless of age or experience, all hikers enjoyed Trailhead Direct and would recommend it to others. Check out our infographic summarizing the season’s outreach for other statistics and feedback from communities!

ECOSS’ New Arrivals program connects immigrants and refugees with environmental education and outdoor experiences that align with their interests. We look forward to continuing partnerships to ensure diverse communities can take advantage of Trailhead Direct service.

Check out other New Arrivals activities

Thank you to King County Parks and The Wilderness Society for your generous funding and support. And thank you to Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for connecting us to the opportunity to conduct this outreach. We’re proud to lower the transportation barrier to the outdoors and enable connections to nature for all.

New Arrivals program is a featured social innovation

Bhutanese hiking trip to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Many immigrants and refugees appreciate the environment and want to protect nature, but are unaware of opportunities to do so in new surroundings. The New Arrivals program connects these new Seattle residents to environmental education, outdoor opportunities and more.

Read about how and why the New Arrivals program focuses on multicultural outreach in this feature with the Social Innovations Journal!

Learn more about New Arrivals

The New Arrivals program is generously supported by the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation.