There is so much great content out there right now, so many valuable trainings, so many necessary conversations. We can’t all be part of all of them all of the time. So we have started this dialog, the “Friday Factotum*” for now, because I’m a vocabulary nerd, to highlight some of the week’s lessons learned, share additional resources, and explore next steps.
This Friday, June 12, 2020 five Metro DNA partners came together to talk about the Equitable Access to Nature webinar hosted by the Salazar Center for North American Conservation. This webinar highlighted the work of Benita Hussein, Director of The Trust for Public Land’s 10 Minute Walk program, and Dr. Scott Sampson, Executive Director and William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair of the California Academy of Sciences. TPL is a Metro DNA partner and Chandi Aldena, Colorado Parks for People Project Manager, sits on our Steering Committee. Scott Sampson is a former leadership team member at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and thought leader behind the founding of Metro DNA. The California Academy of Sciences is behind the City Nature Challenge, which we have participated in for the past two years, engaging 406 observers and logging 6,211 observations of 970 different species of flora and fauna this spring alone!
Engaged in Friday’s dialog were Jo Burns, sole proprietor of Jo Burns Connects and Chief Collaboration Officer of the Colorado Public Health + Parks and Recreation Collaborative; Dr. Susan Sherrod, Ecologist with Biohabitats and instructor at the University of Colorado; Maggie Lea, Director of Programs for Mile High Connects; and Tracy Coppola, Colorado Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association. Some highlights from the webinar for us included:
- Dr. Scott’s (yeah, the PBS Dinosaur Guy) shout out to a national audience of Environmental Learning for Kids and Thorne Nature Experience here in Colorado’s Front Range for their work connecting kids and families to nature.
- Data on the relative safety of nature play structures compared to “traditional” plastic and metal playground equipment.
- The experiential value of curiosity for kids as they are exploring nature with adults and peer mentors.
- The scary fact this generation of kids might be the first to experience a shorter life span than their parents.
We discussed a number of ideas, including:
- Our engagement, led by Mile High Connects, in the national SPARCC network and Equity and Results leaning cohorts.
- The work of community-based organizations like Montbello Walks, the Montbello Organizing Committee, and Southwest Denver Coalition engaged in related activities supporting healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles.
- A future Metro DNA partner dialog on equitable parks investment via Blue Print Denver and other local decision making frameworks.
- The possibility of formal and/or informal research within our community on the health benefits of nature and how our partners and their networks are spending time outside. This research could be pursued in collaboration with the Denver Urban Field Station, which includes partners from multiple federal agencies and universities.
- Conversations around defunding the police and reimagining public safety, including the Denver Streets Partnership’s efforts to open local streets to pedestrians. See their recent email newsletter, a related Denver Post article, and additional context from the podcast “War on Cars”. Denver City Council members Kneich, Hinds, and Gilmore (not mentioned in the Denver Post article) have all expressed support for the concept, and it sounds like the discussion will be primarily focused on the 2021 budget and potentially reallocating some funding from the DPD to other City services.
Please have a look at this summary and the links to additional resources. We are hopeful this will become a valuable space for Metro DNA partners to get to know one another, share different perspectives, and dive into the issues they care about.