Commemorating Juneteenth by reflecting on race and the outdoors

A message from our director

Dear Friends,

The collective anger, unrest, and activism of this extraordinary moment in history makes this year’s observance of Juneteenth all the more significant. For us at King County Parks, it also brings an opportunity to reflect on how systemic racism has affected and continues to affect the ways we serve our community.

As a steward of public lands, we must acknowledge that racism – structural, institutional, generational – has played into our work, and that as a government agency, we have contributed to the oppression of Black people and people of color.

At King County Parks, we believe that Black Lives Matter, and with every project or initiative we begin, we need to consider how leading with this value realizes our vision of parks, trails and natural lands for all.

What needs to happen so Black people and other people of color feel connected, safe, and welcome in our parks?

How can we make the benefits of our parks, trails, and open spaces more equitable?

How can we develop a workforce that reflects and is responsive to the diversity of our King County population?

How do we effectively partner with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and organizations to ensure that our actions as a division lead to more equitable outcomes?

As we strive to address these essential questions, our efforts will take many forms, including these actions already in progress:

  • Acquiring open spaces in historically underserved, urban unincorporated areas through the Land Conservation Initiative
  • Tackling systemic challenges and policies, as a founding member of the King County Play Equity Coalition, that have led to inequitable access to sports and outdoor recreation for youth of color, youth from families with low incomes, and immigrant and refugee youth
  • Evaluating the impacts of our field scheduling polices and taking steps ensure field access for programs serving youth of color and youth from families with low incomes
  • Launching a new internship program that seeks to build greater racial diversity in the environmental field by providing BIPOC youth with paid, career pathway opportunities

Our equity and social justice work must become an integral part of our mission and service delivery. We are not achieving our mission if we are not serving our Black community and communities of color.

Although we have taken steps on this journey, we must and will do better.

Warren Jimenez, Division Director

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