#JustAnOutdoorGal: Teresa Baker

Welcome to the first installment of our #JustAnOutdoorGal series. This week we’re featuring Teresa Baker, a woman working to make the outdoors more accessible to underserved populations. Check out her story below!

As a child growing up in Richmond, California, Teresa always had a strong relationship with the earth. She started camping and hiking early, and quickly observed that there were very few people in the national parks who weren’t white.

The lack of diversity in our outdoor spaces is hardly news. The National Park Service itself is overwhelmingly Caucasian, and that demographic is mirrored in park visitors. One of the biggest questions that has stymied the NPS in recent years is how to attract a more diverse array of visitors.

Teresa 2

So, in 2013, she started a project. She invited people across the country to go out to parks one weekend a month. She specifically targeted African-American communities and communities of color; 700 people came out in her first year. From there, the project has only grown, with over 4,000 people coming out in 2014, and over 7,000 responding to her by this past June.

By intentionally speaking to African Americans and minority visitors, Teresa has drawn visitors to national parks consistently over the past couple of years. Many of Teresa’s readers have found  solidarity in attending the parks with thousands of others across the country.

Moreover, African Americans historically have a strong relationship with our national parks. Some of the first park rangers in the nation were Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th and 24th Cavalry Regiments, and reclaiming that history can also be incredibly powerful.

Buffalo Retracing 1

Buffalo Retracing 2

In June 2014, Teresa and a group of diverse individuals came together at Yosemite to trace the Buffalo Soldiers’ trail. The goal? To find a sense of union and solidarity with those rangers, as well as all the others who have come afterwards.

Sista Monica had never been camping. That said, she heard about it and decided to attend, evoking an incredibly strong response from both herself and from the other attendees. In fact, Sista’s voice and hymns were one of the biggest unifying forces of the entire event. She returned to the park several more times before her death, and cited this event as her inspiration.

Buffalo Retracing 3

Teresa is  turning back the clock on years of racism and inhospitable wilderness. Historically, the woods have not always been a place where black people could feel safe or free, due to fears of lynching and violence. Teresa’s initiative allows people to come out and face these obstacles together. After all, minority populations will make up more than 50% of the U.S. population in the next 20-30 years. If these groups don’t have strong relationships with Mother Nature, it will become even more difficult to conserve what we have.

If you’re interested in learning more about Teresa’s work, you can visit her blog or Facebook.

Want to be featured in our ongoing #JustAnOutdoorGal series, or want to nominate someone else? Shoot us an email: JustAColoradoGal@gmail.com. We will be in touch soon. Huge thanks to Anagha for writing these posts!

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16 Comments

  • Reply Heidi @bananabuzzbomb at

    THIS! So freakin’ rad. Love her story and love that you’re sharing it!!

  • Reply Amanda at

    This is an awesome story! I look forward to the rest of these Outdoorgal posts 🙂

  • Reply Samantha Irene at

    Love the #OutdoorGal posts

  • Reply Mary Anne Surcouf at

    This is a great post about Teresa’s work! I am very interested in this topic and would love to see more Louisiana kids getting into the parks. President Obama is giving 4th graders across the country a free park pass, but many families will not take advantage of the program because they are unfamiliar with how to camp and what to expect in the parks. Heather thanks for posting about Teresa’s passionate involvement! Love it!

    • Reply Teresa Baker at

      Thank you for the words of support.

  • Reply Patrice at

    Go Teresa!!! Love what she is doing!

  • Reply Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine at

    Teresa, you are a superstar! This is such a fantastic project and purpose. I wish you the absolute best and that this keeps on growing! Thanks for sharing her story on your blog, Heather.

    • Reply Teresa Baker at

      Thank you very much. Your support is appreciated.

    • Reply Teresa Baker at

      Thank you

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN at

    Wow! So inspiring!!

    • Reply Teresa Baker at

      Thank you very much.

  • Reply Krysten at

    WHAT AN AMAZING INITATIVE!! Way to go girl!!!

    • Reply Teresa Baker at

      Thank you.

  • Reply Alex Francis at

    What a great story! Our National Parks are true treasures that should be shared and experienced by all!

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