Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A banner reading diversity, equity and inclusion with Washington State Parks shield to right

2021 Summer/Early Fall Update

Washington state has one of the largest, most beautiful and diverse park systems in the country. Our parks and the opportunities within them are as unique as the people of our state. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is committed to our mission and vision by expanding access and opportunity for everyone to experience the outdoors.

We are committed to assessing and revising our policies through an equity lens to eliminate barriers and address inequities. We want to ensure that the practices and programs that we have in place are not perpetuating racism and other disparities. 

Many efforts are underway to help State Parks live out these values in all of our work. Check out the highlights below: 

AGENCY LEADERSHIP

Washington State Parks is in the process of welcoming a dynamic, collaborative and experienced Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) director to provide strategic leadership for the agency.  This new position will help ensure that all Washington State Parks services, processes and places are accessible, welcoming and inclusive for all people. 

The Director of DEI will:

  • Advise the State Parks and Recreation Commission and agency leadership about agency culture and practices that support a diverse and engaged workforce.
  • Connect, listen to and partner with parks users and potential users to better understand the voices of our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and underrepresented communities. 
  • Develop and implement long-term DEI vision, goals, strategies and initiatives.

This is a new position at the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission reporting directly to the agency Director and is part of the Executive Leadership Team. 

We are also recruiting for a Tribal Relations Manager this fall. The manager will help us continue to build our relationships with Washington’s tribal governments and support the State Parks Centennial Accord Plan

The Tribal Relations Manager will: 

  • Assist with developing and implementing policies that promote effective communication and collaboration between State Parks and tribal governments
  •  Serve as the primary connection for tribal governments
  • Coordinate ongoing training of parks staff in government-to-government relations.

ENGAGEMENT, ASSESSMENT AND LISTENING

 
Internal Listening Sessions & Organizational Equity Readiness Assessment
Beginning in spring 2021, State Parks conducted five internal listening sessions to help identify opportunity gaps and barriers within our organization. The feedback will help us make changes to reduce disparities and improve equitable and just outcomes for everyone in Washington for the next seven generations and beyond.  

We shared our results with the Washington State Office of Equity to be used in a five-year equity strategic plan. 

Identifying and addressing barriers for Black Washingtonians
This summer Washington State Parks and the Commission on African American Affairs (CAAA) have partnered with Governor Inslee’s Office in forming a 12-member work group to identify barriers to inclusion that Black people experience at state parks, outdoor recreation spaces and public parks. Their recommendations will inform State Parks and CAAA about strategies to create more welcoming spaces.  

Additional work includes: 

  • Reco Bembry and Mickey Fearn will be co-facilitating the work group this fall.  
  • George Griffin and staff at G3 Associates will help facilitate a statewide survey to support these important efforts.  
  • A report is due to the Legislature by January 1, 2022.

Visitor Use Experience Assessments

State Parks has partnered with the Washington State Parks Foundation to better understand how members of BIPOC communities experience Washington State Parks. Specific objectives include:

  • Recruit 10-12 individuals to provide feedback about challenges and priorities for improving experiences at state parks. 
  • Identify challenges that prevent new BIPOC community from visiting State Parks. 
  • Understand what design elements can create a welcoming and inclusive space for BIPOC visitors at State Parks.

Simplify design and communication to improve user experience before, during and after a visit to a state park. 

PLANNING AND POLICY


Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Strategic Plan 2020-2030
The 2021-31 strategic plan builds on decades of hard work and outlines the agency’s goals and strategies for achieving a healthy, sustainable park system. The plan includes six principles and goals that set our strategic priorities for the next 10 years to improve our park system for everyone. Our strategies include:

  • Maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all visitors of all backgrounds
  • Develop new parks and amenities, and improve trails and park services that meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse population
  • Engage youth and diverse communities

Recreation and Conservation Plan for Washington State 2018-2022
The 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan for Washington State provides strategic direction for local, regional, state and federal agencies to collaborate with tribal governments and private and non-profit partners. The goal is to address outdoor recreation and conservation to meet the needs of Washington State residents. 

A key commitment relates to improving equity of parks, trails and conservation lands, meet the needs of youth and plan for culturally relevant parks and trails to meet changing demographics.   A revised 2022-2026 Plan is under development.

Accessibility
From ADA-compliant campsites, to restrooms, trails and docks, Washington State Parks is committed to making outdoor recreation accessible to all people. This  searchable map provides detailed accessibility information about amenities and services.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is updating its Transition Plan to address barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities. The updated Transition Plan will help identify policy, program and physical barriers to accessibility. The plan will show barrier removal solutions to better allow people with disabilities to access the state park system’s natural, cultural and recreational features.

PROGRAMS

No Child Left Inside
In May 2021, State Parks awarded $4.5 million in No Child Left Inside grants focused on programs that expand outdoor education and recreation opportunities to under-resourced communities throughout Washington State. More than 50,000 kids will spend nearly 1.5 million hours outside, doing everything from kayaking to camping.

This is the highest amount of funding the No Child Left Inside Program has received in its five-year history. In total, grant applicants submitted 117 proposals requesting more than $6.8 million and 63 percent will receive funding. Funding last biennium covered only 16 percent of the projects.

Park Rx 
The 2021 Legislature adopted SB5292 establishing a task force to develop a pilot Park Rx program where equitable opportunities can be provided through low/no-cost park and recreation programs, activities and facilities. This effort will expand upon existing Park Rx programs that promote healthy activities and behaviors.

Washington State Department of Health is facilitating the effort and recently kicked-off the first convening of the planning group. Pilots will be implemented in the Puget Sound area, in eastern Washington and in southwest Washington.

Folk and Traditional Arts Program 
Since 2004, the Folk & Traditional Arts Program has created memorable natural, cultural and artistic heritage experiences through events in state parks performed by musicians, dancers, craftspeople and storytellers that represent a wide variety of old and new Washington traditions. From tribal canoe family journeys and Cinco de Mayo festivities to fisher poetry to Ecuadorian song and Hawaiian hula, the program brings people together to celebrate a common heritage and to learn about the traditions of others.