Teresa Baker is a national parks junkie. She is so enamored with the units and mission of the National Park Service, she created the African American National Park Event, an annual June weekend dedicated to getting blacks and other people of color to visit.
So last year, the centennial of the Park Service, should have been Baker’s to celebrate. Instead, it unfolded like a nightmare, the superintendents at Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore going down in an eruption of a sexual harassment scandal that marred the yearlong birthday party.
At the end of summer, the trail of dishonor led to Yosemite National Park, the main flame of Baker’s romance with the parks.
“After hearing so many stories of sexual harassment in the National Park Service and having women reach out to me asking for advice on what they should do,” says Baker, who lives in Martinez, California, “I thought the best way for me to address the issues was to do what came naturally for me – put on an event to address not only sexual harassment but the various issues that women who work and play in the outdoors face.”
Spots for the general public now are sold out; the only remaining tickets are tied to sponsorships: Click here to be wait-listed.
Baker first pitched the idea to Jean Fraser, the new CEO of the Presidio Trust, which signed on as a presenting sponsor. Baker then enlisted two friends in the National Park Service – Amanda Rowland, youth programs coordinator for the Pacific West region, and Kelly Martin, the chief of fire and aviation management at Yosemite. It was Martin’s testimony before Congress that helped pull back the veil on what was deemed as a “hostile work environment” at Yosemite, leading to superintendent Don Neubacher’s retirement.
Martin will be one of the headline speakers at the summit, along with Rose Marcario, the CEO of the activist retailer Patagonia, and Dr. Carolyn Finney, a professor at Kentucky who is one of the leading voices on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.
In addition to Baker and Fraser, other speakers include Alyssa Ravasio, the founder of Hipcamp, an online platform linking campers and private-land owners; Georgina Miranda, founder and CEO of Altitude Seven, an adventure media platform for women; Agnes Vianzon, a founding member of the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps, a youth development program tied to the outdoors; T. Morgan Dixon, the co-founder and CEO of GirlTrek, the country’s largest health non-profit for African American women and girls; Gale Straub, the founder of She Explores, a podcast and website for women in the outdoors.
“The purpose of the summit is simple – bring together women and men who work and play for various outdoor agencies and grassroots organizations, to discuss work place biases, barriers to access, harassment and various other topics that women face in their enjoyment of the outdoors and work stations,” Baker said. “This will not be a hostile gathering, I intend for this to be a fun, encouraging and informative gathering for all in attendance, with amazing speakers leading the way.”
The first day of the summit will be held mostly indoors, with speakers, tabled conversations, and open Q&A sessions. On the evening of June 14, an outdoor campfire discussion will be held at the Presidio’s Rob Hill campground, which also will serve as the outdoor lodging site for attendees. The second day will be held entirely outdoors centered at the campground and will feature dialogues and an exploration of the beautiful Presidio.
The aim will be building the same sustainable momentum of energy and ideas of Baker’s other events, which include this month’s ”Hike Like a Girl” weekend.
“My hope is to build a network of supporting individuals who will answer the call, if need be, on future issues that may arise around issues that we address during the summit,” Baker said. “As history has shown, a community that comes together to support a cause, can bring about great change.”