Outdoor Equity:
How the NRF Is Supporting Access to Nature for All People

By Ashley Ess

April 27, 2023

The Tom's of Maine Get Into Nature program not only helps spark a deep, lasting connection between young people and the planet, but it also addresses the inequity around access to nature. Tom's of Maine believes nature should be accessible to all people. But the reality is that, for many, outdoor spaces aren't within reach due to physical barriers and lack of transportation, time, and resources.

Launched by Tom's of Maine in 2021, Get Into Nature is a three-year, $3 million initiative rooted in funding outdoor recreation to give young people from underrepresented communities access to the outdoors. The program is in partnership with the National Recreation Foundation (NRF)—a nonprofit with expertise in making nature more accessible, equitable, and fun for all kids—to further support underserved and underrepresented communities' access to nature.

Together, these organizations aim to expand outdoor equity and create a positive impact on kids' lives and the planet.

Three young boys relax against a tree trunk.

Teaming Up to Make Outdoor Equity a Reality

In partnership with Get Into Nature, the NRF provides funding, grants, and resources to grassroots community youth organizations across the United States. These grants support outdoor programming for millions of children who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to engage with natural spaces due to economic, social, and geographical factors. Like Tom's of Maine, the NRF believes that spending time outdoors is crucial for healthy development and that all people deserve access to nature.

This year, Get Into Nature and the NRF are supporting dozens of youth organizations that promote outdoor equity. From adventure experiences like hiking, camping, and rock climbing to leadership opportunities and nature education, these programs strive to connect underserved children to their natural surroundings. Here are a few examples of organizations that were part of Get Into Nature in 2022:

  • Wild Diversity: With grant support, this Oregon-based nonprofit is increasing its summer camp program for youth of color to inspire future stewards of the planet, instill a sense of belonging in nature, and encourage interest in ecology and natural spaces.
  • Rios to Rivers: Based in Colorado, this organization invests in Indigenous youth and organizes cultural exchanges to connect them with community leaders and inspire them to protect rivers across the world.
  • IDEA Public Schools: NRF funding supports IDEA Public School's Camp RIO, which connects over 33,000 students from low-income families in South Texas to recreational and educational outdoor activities.
A boy walks along a river on a dirt path.

Backyard Basecamp

One of the 14 organizations, Backyard Basecamp, takes a slightly different approach to its outdoor experience program. Backyard Basecamp understands that many factors contribute to the lack of diversity in nature-based programming, including generational trauma, limited access to green spaces in Black and low-income neighborhoods, and cost-prohibitive programs.

While many like-minded organizations connect underserved youth to rural settings, Backyard Basecamp endorses a local approach to nature appreciation, adventure, and education. To counter the "escapism narrative"—which suggests that elsewhere is better—this Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-led program creates outdoor opportunities for youth within their home city of Baltimore, Maryland.

NRF funding supports Backyard Basecamp's career training program, which exposes youth to careers in the natural sciences and other green professions and provides opportunities for them to build key career skills.

How You Can Help

Want to learn more about how Tom's of Maine is supporting the health of future generations? Check out Tom's of Maine Incubator Aliyah Collins and read about the important work she's doing as an environmental justice advocate and climate trauma healer.

To get involved with Get Into Nature, all you have to do is go outside—whether you're on a hike or picnic, bird watching, or looking for bugs—and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get into nature. This simple change will make a huge difference to them and to the planet.

Show us how you #GetIntoNature by tagging @Toms_of_Maine on Instagram or @TomsofMaine on TikTok with your outdoor adventures. We'll repost our favorites on the Tom's of Maine account.

Image Sources: Unsplash | Unsplash | Pexels

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Nature has a profound effect on a child's physical, social, and emotional health, and all people should have access to outdoor activities. Programs that promote outdoor equity are doing necessary, transformative work for the future of all people.