November 2, 2021
Last month, PPORA completed our process in the development of our organization’s Core Values and posted these on our website HERE. As our core values state, we believe respect is the cornerstone for how we interact with one another and our natural environment. We are a collaborative made up of many individual people and organizations coming together to fulfill our mission and it takes each of us to embody and embrace these values for PPORA to authentically reflect them.
We know it’s one thing to post some well thought-out statements and another to understand how these commitments are lived out through the life of the organization. This blog post/article will help the reader to better understand how PPORA works to embody these statements.
Processing Our Core Values
PPORA adopted the SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) principles early on, then as the state adopted and amended these to better fit Colorado, PPORA adopted the resulting Colorado Outdoor Principles. As a diverse and growing collaborative, we recognized that sharing what our organization believes and works to exemplify in addition to these principles was important. Our executive director drafted value statements, the board of directors discussed and revised them, we sent them to the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for review and suggestions, then took those to the full PPORA Advisory Council for discussion and revision, and then finalized them.
Our Board and Advisory Council
We do not ask our board or advisory council to identify themselves by race, ethnicity, gender-identification, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability, etc. and we refrain from making assumptions about these characteristics. We seek to grow and maintain diversity according to our values to the best of our ability.
PPORA works to both diversify our Board of Directors and bring needed skills and experience through engaging the broader community with the opportunity to serve through PPORA. Our applications are open to all and posted on our website and we also actively seek out board members who provide the diversity described in our core values. We participated in the Leadership Pikes Peak Get On Board event to meet diverse board and volunteer candidates, and are looking into El Pomar Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Development which works to help cultivate diverse leadership potential in Southern Colorado. We have been a small board and are slowly expanding it within the bounds of our bylaws.
In early 2021 we brought on two new at large directors who bring greater geographical and age diversity as well as experience. Our ex officio members also changed between 2020 and 2021, bringing new perspectives and skill sets and a younger demographic. Our new chairman in 2021 brings perspective as an outdoor enthusiast, parent of a special needs child, and board service with other outdoor organizations. We invited (but were declined) applications from a member of a community organization in racially-diverse southeast Colorado Springs, a member of an outdoor nonprofit focused on people of color, a strong advocate from the motorized community, as well as an outdoor enthusiast and member of a local financial institution. We are currently bringing on a new class of board members including two women – one representing the Colorado Springs Airport who is a strong outdoor enthusiast with community relations and marketing expertise and the other coming from Discover Goodwill, a nonprofit focused on people with disadvantages, who is also an outdoor enthusiast with development expertise. In the pipeline and currently being considered for this second class is a disabled military veteran who actively engages in outdoor recreation and has volunteered with PPORA. It should be noted that PPORA has an all-volunteer, unpaid, 100% contributing board of directors.
Our Advisory Council consists of representatives from across the outdoor industry in the Pikes Peak region – outdoor businesses, nonprofits, land managers, government, and ancillary industries such as military, higher education, healthcare – and we actively seek to add new representation for any stakeholder group not represented that helps fulfill our mission. The Council is consistently asked who’s not at the table who should be and to make outreach or share potential representatives with the staff so that we can reach out and invite them to meetings. In keeping with our core values, in 2020 and 2021 PPORA has invited and enjoyed participation from several new stakeholders including a black-focused outdoor nonprofit, a winter sports-focused nonprofit start-up, a business that provides experiences for the physically disadvantaged, a small rural community’s city government, an equestrian user group, a camper van business, and a trail running organization. We average 25-30 participants per monthly meeting and not all of these are on the website. Meetings are generally open to the public, but we do request advance notice if someone new would like to attend.
At the beginning of our monthly Advisory Council meetings, we begin by reminding everyone that this is a diverse group, and we all have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to share and to ensure that we are mindful and considerate in the words we choose and how we share in discussions.
PPORA has several annual events, all of which are collaborations, and each of these fulfills one or more of our pillars in supporting our mission.
This summer, PPORA launched its Respect in the Outdoors Campaign. This collaborative campaign began with a joint press release from our Pikes Peak region land managers encouraging respect and good outdoor ethics over the summer season. This was followed by a social media campaign for 10 weeks with messages on respecting the places we enjoy and other people who enjoy outdoor activities. We filmed video of our local outdoor leaders, then ordinary people on the trail and in the parks, followed by representatives of the industry at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show all the same question: what does respect in the outdoors means to you?
Last month, for our annual Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project – a collaboration with the Cultural Arts Office of the Pikes Peak Region, Fountain Creek Watershed District, and Creek Week – we chose RESPECT as the word this year to further encourage our community to respect one another and the places to enjoy in the outdoors. The word filled with trashed picked up from our local public lands and waterways was on display throughout the month of October in celebration of Arts Month.
The last two years of COVID has prevented us from holding Get Outdoors Day. This event was held for four years and will be brought back this year. In partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the City of Colorado Springs, this event is intentionally held at Prospect Lake in Memorial Park to serve the southeast Colorado Springs community – recognized as a racially diverse and disadvantaged part of our community. We hold the event on free fishing weekend in June and with our partners provide free outdoor activities all day long. The event engages 5,000-6,000 people, introducing many to outdoor experiences they’ve never had before. We include a Kids Leave No Trace Activity Zone and encourage new outdoor users to practice good outdoor ethics.
In 2018, PPORA launched a new user-focused website, www.pikespeakoutdoors.org with the help of our many partners. This website helps the user find new outdoor experiences and connects them to resources – information as well as businesses offering gear, workshops, classes, rentals, guided experiences, as well as nonprofits providing services and volunteer opportunities. There is no cost to businesses and nonprofits to being included on this website, as it was built to be a service to our community.
We later launched the Family Adventure Guide to the Pikes Peak Region – again, a collaboration with many partners. This guide provides the easy button for families wanting to explore our region. A Kids Adventure Club – free – was also launched to encourage youth to responsibly enjoy the outdoors. The resource includes hidden gems, checklists, itineraries, tips for parents, activities for kids of all ages, a club mascot (Tava the pika), and more. The guide is in both English and Spanish, in print and online. During the pandemic, PPORA partnered with Catamount Institute and provided guides to families through the school lunch program to support disadvantaged youth in southeast Colorado Springs.
Education, Training, and Resources
At both the board and advisory council levels, we have discussed how best to live out these core values through representation, recruitment, programming, and training opportunities. We have encouraged the Advisory Council and our broader email list of supporters to participate in learning opportunities focused on helping make the outdoors better reflect the makeup of our communities. Two such examples include the El Pomar Foundation’s Pikes Peak Heritage Series event, “Equity and Inclusion in the Outdoors” and Generation Wild of the Pikes Peak Region’s, “Pikes Peak Outdoor Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Summit.” Our staff not only attended, we brought others to both and then followed up with a discussion of what was learned at the next Board and Advisory Council meetings.
We are also vetting resources to make available to PPORA stakeholders and supporters to assist them in their own businesses and organizations as we collectively work to help make our Pikes Peak region’s outdoors truly an outdoors for all. Stay tuned as we will both announce and post these resources once available.
We hope this has provided a peek into our how our organization is working to live out our values. PPORA is still a young organization, just 6 years old, and 2020 was the first year we had a full-time executive director and this September brought our first permanent hire! We are so thankful for the collaborative spirit of our partners and supporters and our collective commitment to continue to learn, grow, and better reflect our values in all that we do. As we often say, we are stronger together.