Building on previous conversations with land trusts in this region, the Northeast CT Advancement Initiative is focused on increasing inclusivity and expanding access to conservation work. In particular, we are working closely with community user groups to perform accessibility assessments of Joshua’s Trust’s trails.
Joshua’s Trust is a regional land trust protecting 4,900 acres throughout fourteen Connecticut towns in the northeast region. From their list of wonderful properties, they chose three preserves to conduct the assessments in the towns of Chaplin, Mansfield, and Ashford.
Working with Joshua’s Trust and project partner The Last Green Valley, with input from CLCC Board Member, Doris Johnson (Outreach and Education Coordinator, CT DEEP Office of Environmental Justice), land trust consultant, Judy Anderson, and CLCC equity coach, Ashley Stewart, CLCC secured partnerships with the following organizations to inform the accessibility site assessments:
- Latino Outdoors – CT, a Latinx-led organization that strives to inspire, engage, and connect the Latino community in the outdoors and to create a world where the Latino community feels welcomed, safe, and represented.
- The UConn League Walking for Exercise Group, a group focused on promoting fitness and well-being through walking and hiking on CT’s woodland trails, rails to trails, and neighborhood roads; as the practice is as social as it is physical.
- The CT Black Women Hikers, a group of African-American women hiking enthusiasts based in CT who enjoy traveling and discovering CT’s many trails and navigating them; their experiences and knowledge vary from birding, plant identification, expertise in hiking, and more.
To ensure a candid assessment, we are hiking the properties without a Joshua’s Trust representative. We are recording insights including first impressions, trail design, feelings of belonging and welcomeness, language barriers, concerns around race, and access to trail information. We have not created questions or any formal assessment for the user groups to follow; rather we are spending most of the time listening and recording informal observations and candid recommendations. Our goal is to collect candid insights into how land trusts can create more inclusive communities and spaces.
We have scheduled most of our outings with these amazing groups through the winter and spring. We are excited to gather their thoughts and ultimately share them with the statewide land trust community. If your land trust is interested in pursuing an Advancement Initiative program in your region, please contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Northeast Land Trust Advancement Initiative is made possible in partnership with The Last Green Valley, with generous grant funding from The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.