Four women in sunglasses climb the steps outside Los Angeles City Hall
Jorge Rivas

Meet the women making history for parks and open space

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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 as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting 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.

Read more about the Sisters of St. Joseph.

A woman holds an umbrellaSister Joan LaPlacePhoto credit: iSeeChange.org

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.

Read more about the Equipo Verde. 

ca_equipo_verde_05032019_045Trust for Public Land community organizer Dayana Molina jumped into the fray at a neighborhood clean-up day last summer. When COVID-19 emerged, she helped the Equipo Verde orient to virtual meetings and other ways to answer the community's urgent needs. Photo credit: Jorge Rivas

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. 

Read more about the Kass family. 

Laurie and Andrea Kass take a selfie by a North Country Trail signLaurie Kass and her daughter AndreaPhoto credit: Laurie Kass

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. 

Read more about Camp Whispering Hills.

Former Girl Scouts hold hands around a campfireGirl Scouts past and present gathered at Camp Whispering Hills to honor its transition from summer camp to public open spacePhoto credit: Girl Scouts of River Valleys

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.”

Read more about Shanelle.

A woman in an orange shirt and red scarf smiles for a camera on a shady waterfront pathway, with a bridge in the background"Because not everyone has equal access to nature, we’re working first with communities that have been historically been denied green space and clean water—among so many other kinds of social capital," says Smith Whigham. Photo credit: Hilary Bovay

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.

Read more about Anna. 

Anna Pfaff blows snow off her fingersAnna PfaffPhoto credit: Dan Holtz

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 Women's History Month heroes? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

Suzette Green
Great stuff! Not everyone has the opportunity to grow up in the country as I did. I was the first woman in NY to work full time as a Fish & Wildlife Technician in 1972, out of New Paltz, NY. I loved my work, it was challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not everyone wanted clean water and managed hunting and fishing. I also organized the first Comment Conservation Committees at that time - I hope they are still functioning. I went on to continue working in Environmental Studies for the South Florida Water Management District. I continue my work by becoming a Master Gardener in 2006, and creating an inspiring native plant garden in urban West Palm Beach. My focus for public education and the environment continues on a daily basis. Thank you for all that you do.
Eric Burr
Maggie Coon currently working with the Methow Conservation Council, but formerly with Nature Conservancy's national office, is just the most well known local woman here on the east entry to North Cascades National Park. Before her stint at Nature Conservancy, she helped found the Methow Conservation Council, which thankfully defeated a proposed mega-ski lift resort here. TPL was also involved and worked closely with Maggie to secure the private land at the mountain's base.
Van Do
Thank you for this great article

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