DEI and Outdoor Access – An Important Message for All of Us

Over the last 20 months as our country has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, people have gone outside to experience outdoor recreation in record numbers. But not everyone has the time and resources to pack up and head out outside. How can the BSA part of solving this issue?

These were the questions we began to ponder as we try to reach our goal in outdoor programs within the BSA: to help more youth and families enjoy our outdoor programs. As we continue to take this journey along with all of you, we were introduced to some other folks in the camping industry that are making strides in this area. One of those was Toby O’Rourke who is a Scout mom and the President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America (KOA). She and her team have had a huge impact on making the outdoor more accessible for all. She recently shared her thoughts on this critical topic at the National Outdoor Conference held in November. 

Here are few things we learned from her keynote address:

  • 16 million households camped in 2021
  • There has been 24% increase in Diversity since 2012 in camping
  • Half of new campers during this time were from diverse groups
  • There is a difference between including groups and making them feel welcome
  • Listening is the best resource to help everyone feel welcomed
  • Making partnerships in your community with likeminded groups is key to success
  • Inclusive photography in your marketing campaign is important to showing a welcoming environment
  • Understanding our unconscious bias is important for us to continue to move forward

Thinking through these ideas and key points that Toby shared will help us move the needle on welcoming new youth and new families to our outdoor programs. What can you do to take the next step to make sure we build a welcoming culture? Is there a step you can take in your council or camp that would help involve more youth and families in your programs?

If you would like to watch Toby’s full address you can do so HERE.

Let us know what you are doing and share some stories of success with us at outdoorprograms@scouting.org