To Our Parks Family,
These last few weeks have left many of us reeling as we collectively mourn for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others who have had their lives cut short. This, in the midst of a global pandemic that has kept us isolated at home cut off from people and parks for months. We are living through a difficult and pivotal moment in history and each of us is being called upon to bring our highest and best selves to the table to address these most pressing issues and injustices.
But right now, maybe you are feeling tired, anxious, hopeless.
Take a deep breath. Remember- the parks are here for you.
The parks are here for everyone.
At the San Mateo County Parks Foundation, we believe parks should be welcoming, accessible and inclusive places for all, yet we acknowledge that communities that have endured generations of injustice are also least likely to have access to parks and nature. While it may be difficult for some to see, we recognize there are very real barriers that prevent people from visiting parks. COVID-19 put a spotlight on this lack of access when people were asked to enjoy nearby nature. This isn’t easy or possible for everyone. Some were inconvenienced for a few weeks, while others deal with this on a daily basis, whether the barrier they face is a lack of transportation, awareness or representation. Perhaps we can all imagine that barrier a little better now.
The shelter in place order exposed another issue: some park neighbors were making assumptions about who should and should not be visiting a park. That is not for us to do. Whether we live next door to a trailhead or 15 miles from one, the parks are our shared outdoor space. They belong to every last one of us.
This is why the Parks Foundation has prioritized field trips to the parks from schools around the county, park prescriptions, bilingual interpretive resources and accessibility improvements. But this is not nearly enough. We are deepening our commitment to breaking down barriers. I understand that we don’t have all the answers and I invite you to share your ideas with us because we want to listen, learn and do more.
It is important to make clear that the San Mateo County Parks Foundation stands in solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities and People of Color. We condemn racist behavior, violence, and systems. We strongly believe that everyone deserves access to and to feel safe in parks and open space. The road before us is long, but we are committed to ensuring equitable access to your San Mateo County Parks. Please join us.
Michele Beasley Executive Director