Latino Conservation Week

This week is Latino Conservation Week, which was created “to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources.” We invited our Education Coordinator Erick Valdez to share his experiences as a young adult joining the outdoors community for the first time, how it affected his choice of career, and how Crystal Cove Conservancy helps include underrepresented communities in outdoor activities!

As a first-generation child of two Spanish-speaking parents in the USA, the world has not always been a kind place. My parents moved here to get away from their world of poverty and ensure that our family had a better life. Working multiple jobs didn’t leave them much time to do all the things that a “normal” family does, like spending the weekend outdoors at a park or a beach.

When my parents did have a weekend available, one of the deciding factors of where we would go was whether the location had materials in Spanish or a representative who could speak to the Spanish speaking community. If the answer was no, it would be difficult for us to get any information of the area, so we would just find a different place. As a child I often felt that my presence in these areas wasn’t a priority and that the outdoors was not meant for me.

For the longest time, I kept thinking to myself that this isn’t right, everyone regardless of their background should be able to explore the outdoors. For that reason, when I was in college, I made an effort to give the outdoors another try by joining outdoor recreation clubs. To my surprise, these clubs consisted of members and students attending the college from America, Korea, Germany, Mexico, and more! I found a love of the outdoors through a group that was inclusive and focused on hiking, camping, and giving back to the environment through volunteer opportunities. This experience made me realize that I want to be part of the solution, I want to be a voice of representation for those who are not being heard.

I strive to work towards a world where all individuals, regardless of background, can enjoy the outdoors safely. Through my career (at Crystal Cove Conservancy), I have been more than fortunate enough to have that opportunity to work with a team that has similar goals. Our organization helps bring diverse groups of students, especially those who are from underrepresented backgrounds, to the Park to get them involved with ongoing environmental restoration and monitoring projects both on land and sea. I live for the awe and wonder that these kids get from exploring the outdoors in a new light and am extremely happy for the small role that I get to play in making that happen.

We can all work together to break down existing barriers to accessing open spaces by educating others about the struggles underrepresented groups face when it comes to the outdoors. It is important that we foster a community where anyone can become an environmental steward, because they will be the leaders and advocates for the outdoors and the environment to the next generation.”


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