Minnesota looks to address disparities in outdoor recreation

A group of hikers pose for a portrait.
Hiking is one of many activities offered by the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation BIPOC Park Ambassadors program, which seeks to create an inviting outdoor space for people of color, something Minnesota is hoping to do at a state level.
Courtesy of Asha Shoffner

Minnesotans are heading outside to go camping, hiking, biking, fishing, bird watching and more this Memorial Day weekend as summer unofficially begins. 

But there are disparities in who has access to outdoor spaces and who feels welcomed in outdoor recreation. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), people of color make up about 20 percent of Minnesota’s population, but only about 5 percent of state park visitors. 

The DNR created the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Task Force in 2020 to address the problem. A report the group published in April recommends the state create a new Outdoor Recreation Office to increase access and participation for Black, Indigenous and people of color in Minnesota. 

Several community groups are also working to create more outdoor recreation opportunities for people of color. 

Host Angela Davis talked with two outdoor activists who started outdoor recreation groups about the work they are doing and how to make Minnesota’s outdoor spaces more inclusive. 

Guests:

  • Anthony Taylor is the senior vice president for Equity Outdoors for YMCA of the North and the co-founder of Melanin in Motion, which works to connect Black people to active living opportunities in the outdoors.

  • Asha Shoffner is the environmental and outdoor education coordinator for Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, the creator of Fiwygin Outdoors and the founder of the BIPOC Outdoors Twin Cities Facebook group. 

  • Elliot Christensen is the assistant tribal planner and grant writer for the Lower Sioux Indian Community in southwestern Minnesota. He was also a member of the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Task Force. 

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.