Recreation Northwest has been relatively quiet in our communications over the past year, and will continue to keep to ourselves in the course of coming months. Know that we are diligently working behind the scenes metamorphosing from our past events-based portfolio to focus on a newly framed future with programs, education, and advocacy at our core. Stewardship work parties in Fairhaven Park will continue and our related work in the woods. Our main events: Expo, Alliance Gatherings, Parkscriptions Day, Summit, and Awards are all on pause for 2021.
We must regretfully announce the closure of our Washington Outdoor Business Alliance (PDF) for the foreseeable future. This was the most difficult decision our board and staff made in recent months. As we change the nature of our business model, we must pull back from our intended statewide scope and impact to focus our efforts locally, here in Bellingham.
Yes, we were really onto something, we thought. Then, the pandemic! We are grateful to those businesses, institutions, and individuals who shared our vision to bring the outdoor recreation community together across our great state: 2020 Washington Outdoor Business Alliance Members. Last year, we were able to nimbly leverage the Alliance for Guides & Outfitters in May 2020, which felt good and were fortunate to work with Jon Snyder.
The past year was spent developing and nurturing relationships across the state, nation, and into Canada as part of this collective movement. We applaud the professional efforts and strides fellow members of the State Outdoor Business Alliance Network have made— demonstrating the common need and the opportunities that exist to support the outdoor recreation industry and local communities.
Here in Washington, please look to the Big Tent Outdoor Recreation Coalition for outdoor recreation legislative support in Olympia— check out the 2021 Big Tent Legislative Agenda. We will continue to be advocates, only on a smaller and more localized level with our economic development project partners at the Regional Economic Partnership and Port of Bellingham, whom we recently received CARES Act funding from that really saved our bacon!
We continue to see strong support from our donors— individuals, businesses, and private foundations including the Murdock Charitable Trust. We are grateful for those Exhibitors who chose to donate their 2020 EXPO fees, instead of taking the refund. We’re in this together and we appreciate all the support.
In 2021, reinventing ourselves to offer community outdoor recreation, nature, and arts education programs with small group activities outside in local parks seems like a reasonable approach given the barriers of the pandemic.
Over the course of the months and years to come, we will be digging deeper into the optimistic outline below and seeing what sticks. We see this as a starting point to identify our scope of interest as it matches our mission, our capability, and capacity.
2021 Recreation Northwest – Programs. Education. Advocacy.
- Programs – Stewardship, Parkscriptions, and Nature Navigators
Our Stewardship of Fairhaven Park will continue to improve trail conditions, advocate for way-finding signs, monitor our planting mitigation sites, and improve public access. We will continue to offer our Parkscriptions program for Health Care Providers and our community collaborations with organizations and public land managers. Our funding allows us to explore new programming with Bellingham Parks, Western Washington University, and Unity Care NW for Nature Navigators in our community.
Nature Navigators. We are researching creating a service of Community Health Case Managers. Our partners will help identify underserved populations and become referral sources for the program. Our trained Nature Navigators will work to remove barriers with clients in order to get them outdoors to enjoy nature as a therapeutic tool. We envision allowing deserving people who qualify to attend our Education programs offerings with scholarships.
- Education – Outdoor Recreation, Nature, and Arts
We are exploring creating programming (eg: experiences, classes, park tours) to be hosted in primary partnerships with Bellingham Parks and Woodstock Farm Conservancy. We will draw from local professionals teaching Outdoor Recreation, Nature, and Arts Education classes. Instructors will be Recreation Northwest staff, WWU Interns, partners, volunteers, and contractors.
Imagine Park Tours with social and natural history narratives paying respect to indigenous Salish Sea tribes and telling the story of Bellingham’s Parks. Highlighting the larger milestones our city has experienced as we continue to value our parks & greenways, stewardship, local economy, and highlight the legacy of Cyrus Gates in relevant parks to weave the connections into one narrative thread.
As content creators, educators, and recreationists we can see authoring and publishing articles, books, and digital publications about the history of outdoor recreation, parks, business, and culture in Whatcom County. We also plan to work with the Port on an updated Economic Impact Report and strategies to support local economic development.
As an established voice for outdoor recreation, we will continue to support local, state and national efforts. Our scope will shift to focus support on local projects– based here in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
We are Recreation Northwest
We promote outdoor recreation and bring people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. Over the past eight years, we’ve appreciated our relationships with you in the active outdoor recreation community. We are resilient and remain committed to our mission and will re-emerge with a clear and exciting path— leading our community forward in the great outdoors. On behalf of the Board of Directors and our Staff, we look forward to creating the next chapter and experiences together.
Todd Elsworth is one of the many “Mossy-haired lunatics roaming the dripping peninsulas”, described in “I’m Here for the Weather” by Tom Robbins. As executive director, he works to fulfill our mission to teach the health benefits of nature, promote outdoor recreation, and steward the places where we play.