Who is DEI and What Do We Do?

Who is DEI and What Do We Do?

Fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on our Trails

By Kathleen Ganster and Robert Reiland 

Like so many other organizations, with the civil unrest in the summer of 2020, the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy decided to take a good look at our efforts in ensuring that all feel welcome and safe on our trails. And like so many other organizations, we felt that we could do better. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee was formed from this process.

Since the inception, the DEI Committee has created and implemented the DEI policy for the organization. We have also hosted several events in order to better serve all members of our community. These events include: geocaching with Outdoor Afro; leading a walk with Not Forgotten Home & Community Services, an organization dedicated to disabled adults; hiking with a senior citizen hiking group; partnering with Outdoor Afro to offer them as a sponsor two hiking teams for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge; partnering with 3 Rivers Outdoor Company to host a hike for families with young children; and partnering with Hampton Township School District and the Carnegie Library system to educate and encourage involvement in the RCTC Geotrail and Mini Geotrail. Through these efforts, we have reached many who may otherwise not be aware of our trails and hopefully, feel comfortable on our trails.

One of the most important endeavors has been working with Kim Refosco, one of the leaders of Outdoor Afro and a DEI consultant. Kim has provided sessions on what DEI means, how to make our trails more welcoming to all, and informational sessions on becoming more aware of all perspectives. She also led a hike for the DEI Committee, Board, and volunteers. Kim continues to serve as an advisor to the RCTC.

An effort is underway to achieve gender parity with participation in our annual Baker Trail UltraChallenge.  In 2021, we offered an informational / Q & A session to ease potential participants' minds regarding the somewhat daunting 50-mile race. We will continue to offer these sessions along with training runs, with the goal that more women will participate in this event. Since the race's inception in 2016, we have averaged an 80-20 ratio of men to women participants. While this is typical of most ultras, Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy aims to better the industry standard with intentional strategies to increase female participation. 

Additionally, several of our DEI Committee members have participated in activities on their own including attending DEI sessions/hiking with North Country Trail Association; leading an overnight hiking trip for Outdoor Afro; and working with other organizations for increased networking.

We also recently adopted expected hiking policies that we hope all who participate in RCTC events will take the time to read on our website prior to participation and follow on all events.

As 2021 ends, we want to thank the individuals who have worked on the DEI Committee. We are constantly seeking new ways to reach more and to ensure all who wish to use our trails feel comfortable and safe in doing so. If you have ideas, suggestions and/or wish to serve on the DEI Committee, we welcome your involvement! Reach out to us by emailing info@rachelcarstontrails.org