Blog

Enjoying Nature During the Pandemic

Navigating the outdoors safely during a global pandemic, respecting nature and others.

by Kimberly Orbe, Coalition Coordinator

As people are finding ways to escape the dense, hot, noise and air-polluted cities, more people are finding refuge in their local mountains and trails. As parks, trails and beaches have slowly began to open up again, there is no doubt that open spaces are finally being valued and treasured by locals.

As a resident of Koreatown, with limited open space, towering apartments and noisy streets, I know about the need to seek out nature. I have flocked to find peace and relaxation in my public lands. I have seen people recreating, enjoying nature, biking through Cogswell Dam in the San Gabriel Mountains, and swimming in the East Fork River. Unfortunately, some people who have decided to escape to the outdoors have also chosen to forget there is a global pandemic.

On countless occasions, I have seen people recklessly pack some of our favorite outdoor places. I have witnessed hikers engaging in conversations without masks, shaking hands, and hugging friends they are meeting on trails. I have even had folks approach me, asking for directions, without a face covering and a total disregard for my safety or comfort-ability. I am no public health official, but I adhere to health guidelines and social distancing because I, like many others, care about my health and those I love.

I have even voyaged to Los Padres National Forest after making a camping reservation for a weekend. My campsite was next to a stream and a hiking trail and I was able to enjoy the weekend and site to the fullest. I was so pleased to see groups social distancing and being respectful of one another. I also saw some visitors coming in hoping to snatch an empty site and I had an encounter with a pair of young women who approached our campsite in their cars. They parked in front of our vehicle, got out of their car and started walking towards my partner and I WITHOUT A FACE COVERING. I put my face cover on, hoping that they would do the same, but they did not. They wanted to know if there was any available space for them to camp near our campsite. We told them there wasn’t as they continued to scope out our site. Then they said thank you and walked back towards their vehicle and left.

On any other “regular” day, in a world without COVID, I would have probably invited them to stay near us or even offered suggestions to other places they can camp. However, I was very disappointed by their total lack and disregard for other people’s safety. I am sharing this story not to be judgmental but to hopefully encourage others to please be respectful of other visitors (Leave no Trace Principle 7). This virus has demonstrated that it does not care for your age, what color or shape you are. Any person can become a victim to this virus. As we travel to the beaches, mountains, and desert to release and have fun, it is important that we remember that.

I hope that everyone continues to enjoy the outdoors. Please plan and prepare, avoid busy times/trails and let’s all care for one another through our actions. Wear a mask. Keep your physical distance. Wash your hands constantly and sanitize. Follow trail etiquette. (Don’t try to force your way down a narrow trail like the jerk I came across). Together we can get through this pandemic and continue to enjoy nature and all the beauty she provides.

Elevating Voices from the Latinx Community: Latino Conservation Week 2020

We asked staff, coalition members and other local Latinx leaders and advocates in conservation, stewardship and community in the outdoors to share their thoughts and insights on the importance and benefits of nature.

Laura Navar, National Parks Conservation Association

“Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra… is important to me because it allows me to heal from transgenerational trauma, connect with my creative side that allows my imagination to run wild and supports building great memories with my loved ones. Conserving these spaces is also about increasing access for all communities, whether it’s for health, spirituality or simply the joy of being outdoors. The joy of nature is the best medicine and needed for future generations.”

Kimberly Orbe, Nature for All

“Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra is important for me because for a long time now we have lost our connection to Mother Earth. She has provided for us, not just resources and food, but also an escape from the busy life of the city. There is no better feeling than a hike in the mountains, a run on a trail, a swim in the river or a break under an oak tree. By doing our part to conserve nuestra tierra, we are securing a green future for tomorrow’s generations to enjoy the bountiful gifts nature provides; land, air, water, food, tranquility, love.”

Brenda Kyle, Theodore Payne Foundation

“Mi familia is of Tepehuan descent.  Somos gente de la sierra.  Conserving a place es preservar parte de mi cultura. Suudalgan (ceanothus), uxbik (manzanita),juk (pine), nab (nopal) and huatamote (mulefat) connect the San Gabriel mountains and mis recuerdos de la Sierra Madre Occidental de mi abuela. The plants tell a story y hablan muchos idiomas.”

Adriana Pinedo, Active SGV

“My ancestors never knew big cities, highways, or a formal education yet they learned everything they needed to know from the land. To enjoy and conserve nature to me means continuing to connect with the land the way my ancestors did and remembering we are here with her, not just on her, living connected to everything around us. Enjoying and conserving our land is to connect to the perfectly patient flow of life and see ourselves as another piece of the whole.”

Briana Erhard, Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM)

“Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra is important because the land we live on is a vital tool for people to connect to the vast beauty of nature and wildlife around them. As an advocate for Public Lands and Public Lands access, it is crucial that we continue to develop policies that create a windows of opportunities for all people of color in the outdoors. The San Gabriel Mountains provide a respite for urban Angelenos who are often overwhelmed by the daily nuances of city life. During this time of Covid-19, we have seen a greater increase in those who are accessing the trails and outdoor spaces making it more evident that these spaces are a place of joy that many desire to experience and protect.”

Christian La Mont, Latino Outdoors

“Disfrutando Nuestra Tierra is important to me because it is a reminder that everything is connected: clean water, clean air, open space, access, safety, culture, history, community, health, and justice are all part of a larger ecosystem that we must protect.”

Liliana Griego, Friends of the Los Angeles River

“Mother Earth is a place of wonder, healing, and peace. Every time I visit the mountains, rivers, or oceans I am always in awe and leave feeling restored. I believe everyone should have access to experience the magic of nature and this why I advocate to conserve and ensure equitable access to open spaces.”

Miguel Ordeñana, Natural History Museum

“It is important to conserve nuestra tierra because we want to set a good example of responsible stewardship and coexistence for the benefit of future generations and the wildlife that live in urban and rural green spaces. Anti-racist conservation models make these places more accessible, relevant and safer for the BIPOC community. As a proud Latino biologist and educator who grew up in urban L.A., this work is personal.  I know firsthand how it is to feel unsafe and unwelcomed in green spaces but also know the benefits of having access and being inspired by nature. My path to my career was not easy due to a lack of relatable role models but I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today without having intriguing encounters with relatable wildlife survivors such as urban coyotes or the privilege of having supportive parents. I remain passionate about studying awe-inspiring wildlife but am also committed to making nuestra tierra places where wildlife and people of all backgrounds feel welcome.”

Latino Conservation Week 2020

Join us in celebrating Latino Conservation Week 2020. It’s a different world we’re living in now as we protect ourselves and each other, but we look ahead with optimism and continue to elevate the voices of those in our communities.

Community Member Insights

We’ll be sharing insights from staff and coalition members and welcome you to share your own comments. Follow along on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Community Events

Additionally, we will be hosting a virtual Census Loteria, or a “CENSOTERIA” game for Latino Conservation Week on Thursday, July 23! We are getting creative this year so we can continue to gather, learn, and uplift our voices and community. We want to take this opportunity to elevate the value of civic participation for the Latino Community. Moreover, we need to be counted to ensure our communities are receiving their fair share of resources. We are excited to collaborate with Latino Outdoors and NPCA for this event.

This event will be bilingual, and we have a fun surprise so don’t miss out!
This is a free family friendly event, so please feel free to share!

To learn more and to RSVP, please visit our eventbrite page at Censoteria2020.eventbrite.com

We are also hosting a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, July 21 at 5 pm PT. Tune in as we engage in a conversation about the Latino Conservation Movement in the U.S. Únase mientras entablamos una conversación sobre el Movimiento de Conservación de Inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos.

Congressional Action

We are joining other Latino Conservation Week advocates in California in asking Congress to take action on several important bills this week. We urge members of Congress to vote YES on legislation to protect California public lands.

Win for the Great Outdoors

Our coalition chair, Roberto Morales, spoke to the Mercury News for a story on the Senate passing the Great American Outdoors Act and how many people have rediscovered the value of parks and open space during the pandemic.

Celebrating victories like this helps motivate us to continue to push for more actions to protect our public lands and connect our communities to nature. The need has never been greater for improved visitor services, access to nature for our diverse urban population, and expanded natural resource protection. Still to pass in the Senate: the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Landscapes by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act. Sign our letter in support of this legislation and help us spread the word.