Meet the women making history for parks and open space
Everywhere we work, we meet creative, dedicated women rallying their neighbors around parks and open spaces that will make their communities healthier, more equitable, and more resilient. Too often, their accomplishments go unacknowledged—so we’re celebrating some of the women making a difference for parks and the outdoors their communities. You may not know them yet, but we think their work is history in the making.
In New Orleans, nuns join the climate fight
Hurricane Katrina damaged the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph beyond repair. Rather than sell their land—25 acres of open space in the heart of the city’s flood-prone Gentilly neighborhood—to developers, the sisters decided to offer it up as the site of a new climate-smart park. When the new park—dubbed the Mirabeau Water Garden—is complete, it will retain up to 10 million gallons of stormwater, reducing flooding throughout Gentilly. “If we can provide this place it would help this neighborhood—our neighborhood,” says Sister Joan LaPlace.
Teaming up to make the most of public space in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has more than 900 miles of forgotten back alleyways—many with a reputation as a magnet for dumping and crime. But in a dense city where more than half the population lacks easy access to green space, alleys also represent an opportunity. We’ve worked alongside the Equipo Verde, or “Green Team:” a group of dedicated Angelenos—mostly moms and grandmothers from the city’s south side—who are digging in to transform alleys into beautiful, welcoming public space.
A mother-daughter duo makes great strides on America’s longest trail
Laurie Kass and her daughter Andrea are on a mission: together, they aim to hike at least 100 miles on the North Country Trail near their home in Marquette, Michigan. Andrea has autism and doesn’t speak or write. “And I surely don’t talk much on our hikes, so the silence and the rhythm of our footsteps make for a very peaceful and calming experience,” says Laurie.
Girl Scouts honor a favorite summer camp
Camp Whispering Hills was a beloved getaway for generations of Girl Scouts from around the Midwest. But 100-year floods in 2007 and 2013 damaged the property’s bridges, roads, and buildings. Unable to safely repair the buildings, the Girl Scouts made the difficult decision to close the camp. We worked with the Girl Scouts to transfer to camp to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Now it’s open to everyone as a state wildlife management area, creating outdoor opportunities in a part of the country where only five percent of the land is in public ownership.
She’s uniting Clevelanders behind parks and public land
Shanelle Smith Whigham, Ohio State Director at The Trust for Public Land, is dedicated to ensuring that every kid in Cleveland has access to a healthy, welcoming outdoor space. “The process of getting people together to make decisions about their surroundings is powerful,” she says. “We’re using our expertise to help Cleveland communities realize their own dreams, and decide what they want their environment to look like, and how to express what’s important to them.”
A pro climber speaks up for the public lands where she learned the sport
Before she logged first ascents in the remote mountains of Nepal, Pakistan, India, Chile, and Colombia—and before her big sponsorships, her Instagram following, and her spot on the team at The North Face—Anna Pfaff was a young woman with a van and a plan: to spend as much time as possible climbing, in as many of America’s wild places as she could reach. We sat down with Pfaff to hear why expanding access to nature and the outdoors for kids growing up in cities is an issue near to her heart.
These are just a few of the savvy, tough, and hard-working women we’ve worked alongside, and been inspired by, as we help communities connect with the outdoors all around the country. Who’s on your list of sheroes? Let us know in the comments!
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