Community Experts Tell Us What Makes Spaces Feel Safe and Welcoming for Great Outdoors Month
June is Great Outdoors Month! Experiencing the outdoors offers many social and emotional benefits, such as building empathy, boosting attention, and reducing stress. To enjoy these benefits, it’s important that we all feel safe outdoors. However, many of us encounter barriers to spending time in nature, including concerns for safety and limited access to green spaces. Community experts across the country are addressing these barriers and supporting unique and innovative environments where everyone can feel safe to learn and explore.
Healthier Generation asked youth advocates and health equity champions about the places where their families feel safe and encouraged to be themselves. Read their reflections for ideas and insights to create or support welcoming spaces in your community.
Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe
Heather Supic – Be Active Gwinnett Program Supervisor, Gwinnett County (Georgia) Government
“As someone who travels all over my community for work, I can vouch that some of the best places that promote safe and encouraging communities are within our outstanding parks. Parks & Recreation staff do a fantastic job at making everyone feel safe, welcome, and allowed to be themselves... In addition, Gwinnett County is currently ranked as the seventh most diverse county in the United States. We understand the importance of developing programs and spaces for people from all cultures and backgrounds to have opportunities to connect and learn about each other... Be Active Gwinnett takes the park's experience a step further with its mobile recreation program to bring safe and healthy play directly into communities such as apartments, housing authorities, and mobile park homes throughout the county.”
Everyone deserves to feel safe in our communities, whether we’re exploring the great outdoors or running errands with our families. – Heather Supic
Play All Day in South Philadelphia
Tiffany Durkson – Playbrary and Studio Ludo
"The Playbrary is a loose parts and toy library. It is free for all to enjoy! Located in South Philadelphia, we serve families Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Families sign up for a membership to enjoy free play in our safe space and our gated garden, or they can check out items for play to take home with them and return in 30 days. We currently have 220 members, in 20 states and 3 countries. With over 200 items to explore on our shelves, we look forward to creating with you!"
Judgement-Free at a Colorado Market
Josef Canaria – board member, Act to Change
“As an immigrant family, my parents always had to learn how to assimilate and adapt to the unsaid rules and expectations of living in a predominantly white community. The Asian Pacific Market in our hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was the one space where they could truly speak Tagalog (the primary language Filipinos speak) freely, have access to the foods and ingredients they're familiar with, and to meet other Filipino people without judgement!”
Feeling Welcomed and Accepted at the Library
Philip Lee – Publisher, READERS to EATERS
“The safest places I find are the library and the bookstore. I love being surrounded by books and book people! There’s always something new to explore and I feel all people and ideas are welcomed. When our kids were young, our families would go to the bookstore and library a lot. The children felt safe to wander and find a space for themselves to read.”
A “safe” place to me isn’t just a place to avoid harm, but a place where we feel welcomed and accepted, no matter if it is our identity or ideas we have. – Philip Lee
Movement, Play, and Blue Skies in Portland
“Our family is at our best when we’re outside. The Oregon coastline is vast, breezy, and restorative. The sand is tactile and soothing for the kids. A playground connects us to new families. It’s where our boys most naturally and enthusiastically engage with other children. Both spaces are completely free with no barrier for entry. All are welcome and everyone is there for the same reason – to relax and soak in the healthy rewards that movement, play, and blue skies give us.”
Offering More than Medical Services in Downtown LA
Luis Ramos – Director of Programs, REACH LA
“REACH LA is an LGBTQ non-profit in the Downtown LA area, celebrating 30 years serving the community... We continue to prioritize a safe space for young LGBTQ individuals of color and their communities. We believe that in order to engage a young individual we need to provide more than a medical service. The organization offers various classes throughout the week – like Vogue One on One, Runway Classes, Old Way – and also host community support groups throughout the week. We provide sexual health education as well as HIV testing and STI testing in a non-clinical environment that is not intimidating to our clients or where they feel like a number instead of a community member. Our staff is part of the community, so clients feel comfortable receiving services from others in the community that look like them.”
We believe that in order to engage a young individual we need to provide more than a medical service. – Luis Ramos, REACH LA
Smiling in the San Francisco Sunshine
“A happy, safe space for me is walking outdoors on sidewalks when it's sunny. People are happy when it’s sunny, so I usually feel safe. And I’m happy too. I love seeing people, houses, dogs, trees, flowers, plants, birds, storefronts. I love walking to restaurants, coffee shops, markets, bookstores, museums, parks, the wharf, piers, beaches, and friends' homes. I love walking with friends, my family, and our dog Tedi.”
Ready to help your community feel more safe and accepting? Dive into summer with these resources and activities:
- Moving Towards Health Equity - At Home, School, and in Your Community – Read about schools who are prioritizing health equity and the tools they’re using.
- Understanding Joint Use Agreements can help your community utilize school facilities for activities during the summer.
- 20 Family Bonding Activities – Enjoy indoor and outdoor fun with your family and school community members of all ages.
- Nature BINGO – Connect with military families as you explore nature with tips and activities created in collaboration with our friends at Blue Star Families.