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Connecting People to Outdoor Recreation By: David Torem (after an interview with Vince Pruis Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust)

In zir work as the Teanaway Engagement Coordinator for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Vince Pruis organizes free events for the community that blend outdoor recreation and education. Vince believes that the two, recreation and education, feed into and enhance each other, as well as the lives of the people on the landscape.

Vince has always been interested in the outdoors; zir first backpacking trip (as an infant, in a backpack) was up Umtanum Canyon. In college, Vince studied environmental anthropology, researching how shared experiences of nature motivate environmental activism. One project Vince worked on was Feral Atlas, a digital humanities project focusing on the more-than-human Anthropocene, the proposed epoch defined by how human activity has affected our planet. The project aims to make scientific literature more approachable by incorporating art and narrative, and by making it free. Vince shared with me the work they are currently doing to promote outdoor recreation and a connection between people and our environment.

For the last two and a half years, Vince has worked to increase community engagement and general knowledge about the Teanaway Community Forest (TCF). The TCF is the largest community forest in the state, with an area of over 50,000 acres, and the last undammed headwaters to the Yakima River. Vince jokes that zir whole job is to hype up other people’s work there. Vince does a lot of outreach: organizing events, field trips, advocacy, and other background work to get the community engaged and up-to-date on the TCF.

With the free Teanaway Interpretive Events, Vince blends outdoor recreation and education in zir work. The Teanaway Interpretive Events each provide an opportunity for community members to go on guided hikes or walks led by local experts and enthusiasts to learn more about what makes this place unique. Ze says, “Outdoor recreation isn’t just exercise! It involves being present in and passing through a particular environment.” The Teanaway Interpretive Events’ form of place based education is mentally stimulating and forges strong feelings of connection to the location and feelings of responsibility to steward it in local communities. 

Outdoor recreation keeps us healthy, and in the face of climate change and ecological struggle, engaging in projects and activities that create natural infrastructure provides hope. Learning more about your particular environment, and the ways your neighbors are already working to preserve it, while immersed in it, can set that hope in action. Outdoor recreation isn’t just exercise like on an indoor machine, but rather feeling one’s surroundings, in mind and body, grounding people in nature and creating a feeling of interconnectedness with the land.

The Teanaway Community Forest Management Plan has five guiding goals (you can read more about those here). These goals are met by the work of the agencies that co-manage the forest–the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife–with the input of a citizen advisory committee, and by the support from partner organizations who do work like trail building and restoration. However, most people recreating in the Teanaway don’t know much about what’s happening on the land they enjoy. Thus, the need for Teanaway Interpretive Events. These events seek to connect why the area matters, the 5 goals of the TCF, and outdoor recreation. There are 7-10 events annually, each tackling a different topic. This summer’s events have a dual-perspective theme, bringing together two speakers at each event from different areas of expertise. Nine events are being planned, with several already scheduled:

  • May 18th: Rivers Walk, on hydrogeology and river restoration.

  • June 1st: Weeds Workshop, on identifying weeds and the importance of native plants.

  • June 8th: Birds and Rivers, on how river restoration shapes bird habitat.

  • July 13th: Rocks in the Life Cycle, on geology and forest health.

The Teanaway Interpretive Events give participants the skills to read landscapes, explore their curiosity, and motivate their feelings of stewardship. They hinge on the idea that outdoor recreation isn’t just about getting a workout in. It’s also a chance for us to mindfully connect with nature, learn about the outdoors, and experience what’s worth protecting. 

Also see Vince at KEEN's Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe May 10-12 - details here:

1 Comment

May 02

Nice write up!

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