Community Van: ECOSS and Danny Woo Gardeners visit Deception Pass

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.

ECOSS featured in Audubon Magazine!

“And I could see in their eyes, they were just taken aback. The kids were like: ‘What? In America, you can walk around in nature?’”

Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, Jabes Otieno, spoke to Audubon Magazine about his experience bringing members of African immigrant communities to nearby hiking trails. For many, this was a new and positive experience!

Check out the article here

This and other adventures were part of ECOSS’ multicultural outreach around the Trailhead Direct bus service. Working with The Wilderness Society, King County Parks and other partners, ECOSS is helping to lower the barrier to green spaces and the outdoors.

Read more about ECOSS’ Trailhead Direct outreach

Lowering barriers and inspiring outdoors enthusiasts

Being outdoors and around green spaces has been repeatedly shown to be good for one’s health. But not everyone has equal access to outdoor recreation opportunities. Trailhead Direct – a bus service provided by King County – lowers one of the greatest barriers to outdoor recreation: transportation.

In 2018, ECOSS partnered with King County Parks and The Wilderness Society to amplify the impact of Trailhead Direct through outreach to multicultural communities. By organizing and leading hiking trips with diverse communities, ECOSS created culturally-centered opportunities for community members to enjoy the outdoors and opened an avenue for immigrants, refugees and other people of color to give direct feedback on the bus service. This feedback contributed greatly to the opening of a Tukwila/Renton to Cougar Mountain route to meet the needs of South Seattle residents.

For the 2019 season, ECOSS reached 621 community members of diverse communities to raise awareness of Trailhead Direct. From that outreach, 145 people participated in ECOSS-led hikes! Youth, adults and seniors alike enjoyed the mountains, from strolls through Cougar Mountain to summiting the locally-famous Mailbox Peak.

Despite King County’s increased effort to advertise Trailhead Direct on common public transit options, most community hikers had never heard of the service. 76% of community hikers did not know about Trailhead Direct before ECOSS’ outreach. Many that did know were through previous ECOSS outreach. This was also reflected in communities’ feedback to King County.

 

“Let more people know about the services because I didn’t know we have this service until I went on this trip.” – Vietnamese community hiker

“Get information to minority communities.” – East African community hiker

This represents yet untapped potential for public transit to connect people and nature. Many community hikers with ECOSS were not just using Trailhead Direct for the first time, but also hiking for the first time. Community members cited barriers to participation such as knowledge of trails and knowledge of transportation options (especially for those without cars). But after overcoming those barriers, the benefits are vast, not just to health, but also to perspective:

“I participated for the first time in a hiking activity organized by Trailhead Direct and ECOSS last summer.  As a Latino immigrant man, I never had anyone to introduce me or invite me to explore this wonderful physical, social and emotional activity. Meeting new people in such a healthy outdoor environment and being able to reach extraordinary views and be in direct contact with the abundant nature of PNW was profound to me. I cannot wait to continue this activity with friends and other members of my community. Thank you so much to the organizers, sponsors and to the public transportation system for letting me have this positive experience free of cost.” – J. Fernando Luna, Latinx community hiker

One hiking trip centered on a group of 34 Latinx community members that included all ages! Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Lack of knowledge should not be misinterpreted as lack of interest. When presented in a culturally-relevant manner and with thoughtful inclusion, immigrants, refugees and other people of color are eager to engage in nature. As Trailhead Direct evolves out of its pilot phase, ECOSS is ensuring community feedback on the diverse needs in outdoor recreation reaches government so they can adjust accordingly. This type of private-public partnerships is promoting the vision of outdoors access and sustainable living for all.

 

Read more Trailhead Direct stories!

Thank you to The Wilderness Society and King County Parks for funding multicultural community engagement. Thank you Entre Hermanos and Bhutanese Community Resource Center for working with ECOSS to recruit hikers. Thank you REI, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and Washington Trails Association for your support.

Forging a path to foraging

Are you familiar with the Pacific Northwest’s variety of edible wild plants? The rainy climate that gives Seattle its gloomy reputation also feeds local mushrooms, ferns and other forage food. And this last autumn, ECOSS and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust (MTS) opened up that world for one Bhutanese community.

In an immersive workshop along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, Bhutanese community members get a hands-on introduction to public land regulations and foraging. Photo Credit: Britt Lê / Washington Trails Association.

For Bhutanese refugees living in the greater Seattle area, there are several similarities between the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the jungles of Bhutan. This includes some shared wild plants such as the fiddlehead fern. But whereas Bhutan has few regulations on outdoors recreation, federal, state and county regulations restrict how people in the Pacific Northwest can use public lands and harvest plants.

Seeing the knowledge gap that prevented Bhutanese refugees from connecting with nature in the same way they would have in their native country, ECOSS worked with the community and with MTS to design an immersive workshop on public lands regulations and local foraging.

In an immersive workshop along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, Bhutanese community members get a hands-on introduction to public land regulations and foraging. Photo Credit: Britt Lê / Washington Trails Association.

The workshop included a guided walk/hike led by MTS and the US Forest Service, an introduction to the rules and regulations regarding public lands and a discussion of the different types of public lands. As a demonstration of the education, the workshop led into a conversation about foraging and local flora. After the formal workshop, the dozen Bhutanese community members were free to enjoy the surroundings and camp overnight.

 

“I am really thankful to this workshop. Foraging specially fiddlehead fern, watercress and mushroom was very common in our community back in Bhutan and in the refugee camp, but because of limited English and cultural differences, many of our community folks are not able to do what they loved doing.” — Bhutanese community member, workshop attendee

ECOSS’ New Arrivals program collaborates with communities of color to create access to environmental education and experiences that are directed by community needs. This community-centric approach ensures both program success and community benefit, like in this public lands workshop.

Read more New Arrivals stories

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for partnering with us, Washington Trails Association for providing gear, US Forest Service for providing public lands education and Bhutanese Community Resource Center for bringing community members!

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!

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.

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.

Congratulations Green Globe Awardees!

Congratulations to Young’s Restaurant and The Wilderness Society for being two of 2019’s Green Globe Awardees!

Young’s Restaurant family with ECOSS partner.Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Presented by King County, the Green Globe Award recognizes outstanding leadership in environmental stewardship. It is the County’s highest honor for local environmental efforts.

Young’s Restaurant is the first Seattle business to utilize King County’s RainWise rebate program. ECOSS facilitated the installation process by recruiting multicultural contractors, guiding them through the RainWise certification training and helping the Vietnamese and Chinese contractors and restaurant owners through the English-dominated process.

The Wilderness Society and ECOSS partners. Photo Credit: Ned Ahrens / King County.

The Wilderness Society partnered with ECOSS to conduct outreach around the Trailhead Direct public transit service within historically underserved communities of color. This affordable alternative to driving provides greater access to the natural beauty that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. With support form The Wilderness Society and King County Parks, ECOSS extended awareness of the service into the Bhutanese, Latinx, Korean and Khmer communities of the Greater Seattle area.

Dow Constantine. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

“Throughout King County, people, businesses and nonprofits are doing extraordinary work to protect the spectacular natural environment that is central to our identity and our quality of life,” said Executive Constantine. “The Green Globe Award recipients we honor today inspire and challenge us to leave this special place even better for future generations.”

ECOSS received the Green Globe Award in 1999 for leadership in protecting water quality and in 2015 for leadership in environmental equity. Building on experience, ECOSS is proud to share its strengths and elevate others to be environmental and equity leaders.

Congratulations again to Young’s Restaurant and The Wilderness Society. Read more about their work and ECOSS’ role in promoting outdoors access and environmental equity.

Check out this year’s 13 amazing Green Globe Awardees

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.