Investing $125,000 in Equity in the Outdoors
Outdoor Equity Fund
MADE X MTNS established a $125,000 Outdoor Equity Fund to empower community-led initiatives that address identified barriers to outdoor recreation access and opportunity, and help close these gaps in Western North Carolina.
This Fund provides micro-grants to non-profits, for-profits, community groups and sole proprietors located in Western North Carolina focused on advancing equity and inclusion in outdoor recreation access and opportunity in the outdoor economy. The first grantees of the Outdoor Equity Fund were announced on Wednesday, August 9th, 2023.
Meet the Grantees
Activated Earth’s mission is to uplift and inspire humanity by providing enriching experiential learning and reconnecting opportunities in nature. Activated Earth offers Transcultural Medicine Wheel Garden Workshops and Guided Forest Experiences designed to restore native plant species as well as personal and place-based traditional ecological knowledge and cultural practices. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will increase facilitator equity informed training in order to activate and implement increased community outreach to inform and provide guided Forest Experiences designed to restore native plant species as well as personal and place-based traditional ecological knowledge and cultural practices, and encourage greater BIPOC participation.
The Flying Bike is a tour company operating in Asheville, NC. Its motto is “we believe in moving people. That’s why we ride powerful bikes and tell powerful stories!” The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help purchase an adaptive bike designed for a person who requires the use of a wheelchair to increase accessibility, visibility and mobility of the disabled population on bikes in WNC, and increase the possibility to hire a disabled person.
UnSPOKEN Bond is a newly formed community group that will introduce citizens of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to the benefits of cycling life. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help build Gadugi (community) and enrich the lives of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens through the power of two wheels in order to increase belonging, build skills that can lead to new passions and careers, and to connect EBCI citizens to the land through cycling.
Latinos Aventureros is dedicated to connecting and empowering communities through outdoor experiences that champion physical and mental well-being, environmental conservation, inclusivity, and language access. With a primary focus on the BIPOC community, their mission is to facilitate transformative encounters with the great outdoors, offering support, education, and opportunities for personal growth in both English and Spanish. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help host a “Lideres Aventureros Summit” specifically designed for Latino outdoor leaders in Western North Carolina.
The 30th Alliance works collaboratively with individuals and organizations to build capacity and specialized services in far Western North Carolina to serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help increase staffing capacity and skills in order to plan trips for immigrant victims of crime enrolled in therapy services.
The James Vester Miller Historic Walking Trail, focused in Asheville’s “East End,” is not only an educational trail, it is a preservation trail that tells the story of perseverance, from being born into slavery to becoming a master mason during Reconstruction & Jim Crow. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help grow awareness of the trail, while activating the community with informed volunteers and local tour guides.
Riding in Color Western North Carolina’s mission is to create affinity spaces for BIPoC of all genders, body sizes, and abilities to build skills and community within the sport of bike riding in WNC. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will increase organizational capacity in order to lead affinity rides and skills workshops for BIPoC of all genders, body sizes, and abilities.
Yadkin Valley Adventure is a service disabled veteran owned guide service whose mission is to help foster a unified and equitable outdoor professional ecosystem where we work together to provide the best service possible to create sustainable access and adventure at a fair price with the lowest impact. The Outdoor Equity Fund grant award will help facilitate all-inclusive adventures for underserved communities, provide access and opportunity to anyone wanting to go outdoors who may not have the proper equipment to do it, and align with regional BIPOC groups to increase climbing access to the Pilot Mountain area.
BCOutdoors is a small business that recently opened an outdoor store and bike shop in Cherokee, NC, an underserved community in Western, NC. Their goal is to increase everyone’s access to the outdoors regardless of their experience level or socio-economic status. The Outdoor Equity Fund will help support EBCI youth citizens’ cycling trips through increased capacity to transport bikes and riders, while increasing their skills to maintain their bike fleet.
MountainTrue is a 501c3 that champions resilient forests, clean waters, and healthy communities in the Southern Blue Ridge. The grant award will help increase organizational capacity to lead paddling trips on the French Broad Paddle Trail, provide ecological and skill building knowledge for participants, teach Leave No Trace ethics and provide important conservation information about the trail.
Blue Ridge Dirt Skrrts is a 501c3 that breaks down barriers by getting more women on bikes and creating a place where women can enjoy companionship and camaraderie while empowering each other to ride bikes and be leaders in their community. The grant award will help further ride leader training to grow organizational capacity to lead more bike rides, increase the number of ride leaders and ride guides, and increase organizational outreach to more diverse audiences.
McDowell Trail School was founded in partnership with the G5 Trail Collective, the US Forest Service and McDowell Technical Community College to support the fast-growing trail construction and sustainability field. The grant award will help provide top-tier training in Trail Construction and Sustainability for 70-84 students seeking jobs in this industry in Western North Carolina, with particular outreach and consideration given to attracting a more diverse student body.
Catalyst Sports is a 501c3 whose mission is to give people with physical disabilities access to the life-changing impact of adventure within a supportive and inclusive community. The grant award will help support the staffing and logistical planning for this year’s Catalyst Sports Adaptive Mountain Bike Race.
Christmount Adapted Programs is a part of Christmount Assembly 501c3, and is a place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience community, acceptance, and purpose. The grant award will support the Vocational Intern Training Program at Camp Lakey Gap.
Aflorar Herb Collective is a collective of folk herbalists, herbal enthusiasts, artists, gardeners, and community organizers working to relearn and remember traditional ways through herbs, connection to the land, and healing through Chicanx, Latinx, Black and Indigenous traditional practices and values. The grant award will help establish an educational outdoor space that caters to people of color, including youth, caretakers, activists, organizers, healers, and community groups with its primary focus to encourage people of color and culture, Latinx, Black, Chicanx, Indigenous, and Queer individuals to reconnect with the natural world and foster a sense of healing and belonging with the environment.
El Centro Brevard is a 501c3 that serves as the catalyst to empower, embrace, and connect the Hispanic Community. The grant award will help increase staff capacity in facilitating outdoor programs with a focus on organizing summer programming with language interpretation and educational content to increase equity in the outdoors in Transylvania County.
Michelle Black is a local professional looking to explore new career options and pursue her passion as a mountain bike coach. The grant award will help her Obtain PMBIA coach certification 1 & 2, and train to increase skills, knowledge and capacity to safely coach BIPOC cyclists, provide affordable skills clinics and host cycling events.
FINDOutdoors is a 501c3 that promotes educational, recreational and interpretive opportunities about forest and water resources, natural history and the Cradle of Forestry in America. The grant award will help its Club de Exploradores train and activate an engaged youth participant base with marketable Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace skills and certifications that will assist them in becoming employable, as well as be program leads and mentors to younger participants.
Issa Vibe Adventures LLC is a small business whose mission is to make nature a preferred destination for all people by exposing People of Color to various indoor and outdoor activities, while providing a safe, loving, fun and welcoming atmosphere that fosters an open discussion of challenges for our community outdoors. The grant award will help establish a People of Color Outdoor Inclusivity Conference in Elkin, North Carolina.
Color My Outdoors is a 501c3 whose mission is to change the outdoor narrative to celebrate people of color and whose vision is for people of color to feel welcomed and empowered in the Outdoors. The grant award will help create a scholarship for BIPOC individuals living and/or working in Western North Carolina with a career or career aspirations in the outdoor industry that serves as a part of a pilot program for a larger initiative that includes peer support, mentorship, leadership development training, and networking opportunities.
A Look at the Outdoors…
Growing Up Outdoors
History indicates that adults who were not exposed to outdoor recreation as children are far less likely to become adult outdoor participants.
Visiting National Forests
A 2018 U.S. Forest Service visitor use survey showed that of the nearly 6 million visitors to the national forests in NC, including Pisgah and Nantahala, 96% were white, 4.7% Hispanic, 1.5% Black/African American, 1.4% Asian and .8% were American Indian/Alaskan.
New outdoor participants are more diverse than the overall outdoor participant base and are driving increasing diversity not only by ethnicity but also across age groups.
Despite representing less participants, Black or Hispanic outdoor recreationists are more likely to call themselves an outdoor fanatic or indicate outdoor activities were among their favorite things to do.
In terms of outdoor participation rate in a sampled population, Asian participants led the way at 59 percent, higher than any other group. Hispanics had the highest participation rate growth, increasing about 6 percent annually overt three years. Blacks had the lowest participation rate growth, increasing just 0.3 percent annually
over three years.
By 2044, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts BIPOC will constitute a majority of the U.S. population.
Photo Credits: Vivianette Ortiz – Latinos Aventureros en los Carolinas; Catalina Norena – FIND Outdoors
Why the Outdoor Equity Fund Was Created
The Outdoor Equity Fund was developed in order to ensure that populations that have not historically had equitable access to and/or invitations to participate in outdoor recreation – including BIPOC, Latine/x, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ populations – are supported and encouraged to benefit from time outdoors in WNC, and have the tools and connectivity to benefit from the outdoor economy.
The three pillars of the MADE X MTNS Partnership – Building Vibrant Outdoor Communities, Growing Outdoor Businesses, and Amplifying Outdoor Culture – are the foundations of a larger body of work: creating a flourishing economy that inherently incentivizes stewardship of our lands and waters as well as the health of our people.