Eagle County is one of Colorado’s most prized outdoor recreation destinations, drawing visitors from across the globe.
But 20% of the county’s residents, many of whom speak Spanish, do not have ready access to parks and open spaces. The Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement has been working to change it.
Jessica Foulis, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a member of the coalition, pointed to a recent survey where residents made it clear they understood the multiple benefits of experiencing the natural world.
“Being in the outdoors helps them feel more empowered,” Foulis explained. “Bringing their friends with them and facilitating outdoor programs in nature makes them feel more connected to their community, and increases their happiness. The benefits to experiencing nature are immediate, as well as long-term.”
Many Spanish-speaking community members say outdoor spaces in the county do not feel welcoming because signage is not available in Spanish. Residents surveyed who want to spend more time outdoors also cited the lack of access to gear, such as proper footwear for hiking.
Working with a host of partners, the land trust is helping construct a community conservation center in Edwards, where some 30% of the county’s Spanish-speaking residents live at Wildflower Farm.
Foulis noted the facility will loan out gear, connect community members with conservation efforts, and host a range of programs to encourage residents to invite friends and neighbors to join them outdoors.
“We’ve had the opportunity to acquire a building in that neighborhood, adjacent to a conserved open space, to create that bilingual adventure center and gear library,” Foulis added.
Virtually all original signage throughout the valley, on roadways and at trailheads, is English-only.
Foulis emphasized signage in the new Eagle Valley Land Trust Conservation Center will be available in Spanish and English, and the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement is also working with community leaders to ensure signs for new projects are bilingual.
“We seek out grant funding to create bilingual signage,” Foulis pointed out. “And we’re also investing in some interpretation technology, so that programs can be delivered in Spanish and English in real time with an interpreter.”