First in “Our Peeps” series spotlighting notable people of color in outdoors-related pursuits.
Growing up, Alan Spears lived 75 miles from the Gettysburg Battlefield, where his family visited twice or so a year as a “cheap vacation.” The essential stop afterward was to a hobby shop where Spears acquired plastic model soldiers with which he’d reenact the Battle of Gettysburg that night.
“Gettysburg sparked my love of American history,” Spears says. “And when I learned through National Park Service interpretive markers that a black man, Abraham Brian, was both physically and literally at the heart of Pickett’s Charge, it helped confirm that history was my story too!”
This path led Spears, a Howard University grad, to the National Parks Conservation Association, an independent, membership organization that uses the legislative system, the power of public opinion, and the courts to shape public policy to protect national parks.
After an internship, Spears started at NPCA’s Enhancing Cultural Diversity program, where he managed the National Parks Community Partners program. He moved to the organization’s Government Affairs department, where he now serves as Director of Cultural Resources. He has led, co-led, or supported five successful national monument campaigns including Fort Monroe, Harriet Tubman, Charles Young, and Pullman.
In whatever spare time he possibly could have, Spears also helps manage Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which he founded. The non-profit group recruits volunteers to do a variety of park maintenance projects, including clearing cut lotus leaves from the park’s ponds.