Hello blog readers! Outside of my work as a projects and communications fellow for the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers Program (based out of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in Springfield, MA), about a third of my time is dedicated to volunteering with my local Latino Outdoors region here in Western Massachusetts. If you’re unfamiliar, Latino Outdoors is a nation-wide organization whose mission is to ‘inspire, connect, and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and embrace cultura y familia as a part of the outdoor narrative’ and emphasizing that ‘history, heritage, and leadership are valued and represented.’
In 2020, I co-founded our Western Mass chapter with a friend from graduate school as well as a few other people in our region who have become like family to me. This was something I sought out for as a part of kicking this chapter off the ground – finding my own meaningful connections around work that I was passionate about. We chose to focus our chapter on the tri-city area of Chicopee-Holyoke-Springfield mostly because of the large Latine presence but also because of our mission to rewrite the traditional outdoor and conservation narrative.
This year for Latino Conservation Week, I knew I wanted to do something that intersected between my work as a fellow and a volunteer. If you’re reading this, you probably know what Latino Conservation Week (LCW) is, but if not Latino Conservation Week: Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) created to highlight the importance of and inspire Latine communities getting out into nature, the outdoors, and conservation. Last year, Latino Outdoors Western Mass hosted two community events in Ludlow and Holyoke, MA – our first ever in-person events! While both events were a success, we did feel like we were a bit in over our heads. Therefore, this year, we wanted to focus on connecting people with the outdoors, cultura, and each other, while keeping it a bit simple. We decided to partner with our sister region, Latino Outdoors Connecticut, and host an introduction to i-Naturalist at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in Springfield, MA. The Springfield Armory is nestled right in the middle of Downtown Springfield – about 15 minutes from the Connecticut border. It is accessible by public bus route, has free parking and free admission, and is relatively easy to find. The Armory sits on a hill overlooking the city of Springfield – the hillside onside used to grow hay is now being cultivated as a pollinator garden.
We held our event, Naturaleza y Comunidad, on July 17th on the grounds of the Springfield Armory! It was a very hot day, but we were lucky enough to have access to shady trees. We picked up some sandwiches and pastries from a local Puerto Rican bakery and restaurant to start off the day with. Once we finished eating some lunch, we went through an introduction of i-Naturalist and Latino Conservation Week. Folks walked around the grounds trying to make as many observations as they could. After everyone came back to the home base, we performed a raffle to see who would win our big-ticket item – a family of four free pass to the Springfield Museums! The Springfield Armory was able to participate by sharing resources of notable Hispanic/Latino figures in American history in the form of baseball/trading cards. We were able to give out some prizes for participation including water bottles, tote bags, and stickers donated by HAF and some Latino Outdoors t-shirts, stickers, and pins. Overall, there was a great sense of connection and community among our participants – some traveling as far as Hartford, CT or Pittsfield, MA! It was great to see different aspects of my life come together, including being able to introduce a local National Historic Site to folks who may come back to visit again!
Agency: National Park Service
Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)
Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - Boston Field Office