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.”

Board of Directors Spotlight: Vanessa Aramayo

What’s your favorite park, trail, or natural space in the greater Los Angeles area?

My family and I have enjoyed hiking Eaton Canyon the most, mainly because it’s small, kid-friendly, includes water streams, and is close to home. One of our favorite Los Angeles area parks is Griffith Park because there is SO much to do; a hike, picnic, horseback riding, a bike ride — and again, so accessible (close to home). 

What or who inspires you in your field of work? 

I’m inspired by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Whether it is a grandparent or parent with limited time who commits to taking a training to better understand the education system for their child/children, or a young person who wants to learn more on an issue, about their environment or community and be able to make a positive impact. There are examples of this every day of people that are motivated to create better opportunities for others; increasing their knowledge, their engagement, and taking action for better change. 

Why are you excited to serve on the Nature for All board?

I am excited to serve on this board because Nature for All authentically engages communities of color on issues that have deep impacts to our communities. Too often, our communities lack a diversity of voices in discussing how to address these issues. 

Board Member Spotlight: Casey Schreiner

What’s your favorite park, trail, or natural space in the greater Los Angeles area?

The Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak is my favorite hike in the L.A. area -– it really shows off the beauty of our unique landscape and revitalizes me every time I hike it. But my favorite park in the region is Griffith Park. It’s one of the largest municipal parks in North America, it really has something for everyone, and it’s truly one of the few places Angelenos have where we can get out of our cars and interact with each other

What or who inspires you in your field of work? 

I am really inspired by the concept of bioregionalism, which aims for a stronger connection between people and the natural places where they live.

Why are you excited to to serve on the Nature for All board?

In terms of access, equity, quality, and diversity, L.A. is currently facing outdoor issues that the rest of the country will be facing in the future soon. There are so many people doing good work in the outdoors here and using innovating approaches to tackle those problems. I am proud to be involved in this movement with Nature for All and I look forward to making our incredible outdoors more accessible to everyone in the Los Angeles area.

Board of Directors Spotlight: Thomas Wong

Thomas Wong, pictured with Rep. Judy Chu, is on the Nature for All Board of Directors.

What’s your favorite park, trail, or natural space in the greater Los Angeles area?

I love our local parks. I have really fond memories of Barnes Park. I grew up in Monterey Park, and we’d go there all the time for play days and community events. We used it for PE in elementary school and I learned to swim at the pool there. It was and still is a key gathering space for the neighborhood, where special occasions and culture are celebrated, and where people from throughout the city come to play and strengthen the bonds of community. 

What or who inspires you in your field of work? 

My parents immigrated to the U.S. and were fascinated by the national parks. Growing up, our family vacations would often be a visit to a national park, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite, Yellowstone and beyond. They were proud of the way we took care to preserve and enhance our natural spaces for the benefit of all and for future generations. That value for nature has driven me in my work in environmental advocacy. 

Why are you excited to serve on the Nature for All board?

I’m excited to serve on the board of Nature for All to help inspire and equip more community advocates for nature and parks, to ensure our communities have access to our natural wonders and their benefits for generations to come.