All Posts (162)

  • Happy Holidays to All

    Wishing you all the happiest of holidays! See you in 2017!

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  • Parks For All

    Photo credit: Kirke Wrench, National Park Service

    Call me sentimental, but I love the holiday season. I love the lights, the flavors, and the smells. I love that we make time in our busy schedules for friends, for family, for loved ones, and for our community. I also love the sense of perspective it gives me – the opportunity to reflect on what is important in my life and how my decisions reflect those values, both personally and professionally.

    I won’t sugar coat it, the past month or two has been a challenging time for many of us. Whatever your political stripes, most people can agree that the rhetoric in 2016 was more divisive than ever, and that we are entering a time of uncertainty and transition. How the things we value may be impacted in the years to come is not yet clear. Now, more than ever, I seek solace and inspiration from those around me, the values that we all share, and the work we are doing to amplify those values.

    Over the past year, the Institute team has dug deep into who we are as an organization, the key beliefs and values that motivate our work, and how those show up in what we do every day. One core value that has come through loud and clear is our belief in the role of parks as safe and healing spaces. We believe that parks must be welcoming and be available to all, no matter their background, ethnicity, religion, orientation, age, ability… the list goes on and on.

    Parks have so much to give to society – they are places to build community, to engage in open and respectful dialogue, to deeply connect with people who are different from us, and to explore and overcome our common challenges. This belief is core to who we are as an organization.

    In this time of change and season of giving, we’d like to share just a few examples of park-based programs that are building community and offering healing, growing spaces. We hope that you find them as inspiring as we do.

    Please use the comment box to add your favorite to this short list, we know there are so many inspiring programs out there!

    From Donna:

    As the Institute continuously champions our beliefs that parks are for everyone, we know that our park partners are working tirelessly to make this belief a reality in the different communities around the Bay and country. Through our work in Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area, we know that parks have been providing warm welcomes to new users for years through multicultural programming and First Saturday programming.

    East Bay Regional Park District creates large, intentional walks that bring together many different ethnicities to share wellness, culture, and enjoyment through its Healthy Parks Healthy People Multicultural Wellness Walks. San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department offers gorgeous scenery while leading participants through Tai Chi and Qigong exercises.

    East Bay Regional Park District Multicultural Wellness Walk at Coyote Hills

    With park leaders playing a crucial role in carving out space for meditation, interaction, and reflection, we hope that you follow their lead to ensure that parks continue to be a democratic space for health, both physically and mentally. If you see prejudice or hate happening in parks, or your neighborhood, speak up and protect your neighbors. Parks are for all, forever. 

    From Oksana:

    This past year has brought to the fore a number of challenges this country still faces around racial, economic, and social justice. Tied in with all of these is climate justice. Parks provide invaluable ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and are also uniquely threatened by climate change. Through the Institute’s Climate Education program we work with park interpreters and other informal educators to provide them with the necessary tools for them to be the best climate communicators they can be. This includes not only telling the story of how our parklands are threatened by climate change but also how it will affect neighboring communities, particularly groups that are most vulnerable.

    There are a number of organizations working at the intersection of environmental challenges, public lands, and social justice, with one of the most prominent being Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ). LEJ is based out of Southeast San Francisco and provides local residents opportunities in urban greening, eco-literacy, community stewardship, and workforce development. The Institute looks forward to continuing to celebrate how parks and their partners can not only help heal the environment but also how maintaining these democratic spaces is central to building an inclusive community.

    From Elyse:

    Lake Merritt, at the heart of Oakland, CA, is an obvious setting for a picnic, or a walk. As a proud resident of Oakland, Lake Merritt holds a special place in my heart. This park holds many fun memories for me.

    This year, Lake Merritt has also been a site for healing. When Oaklanders were reeling from the loss of friends and artists from the devastating Ghost Ship fire, it was Lake Merritt where we grieved together. After an election filled with dangerous rhetoric, Oaklanders stood up against hatred at #handsaroundlakemerritt, a show of solidarity and appreciation for the diversity of Oakland. These beautiful moments of Oaklanders coming together proved that Lake Merritt is where the best of Oakland can be seen.

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  • End-of-Fellowship Thoughts

    As December draws to a close, so too does the Institute’s third fellowship cohort. Maria and I started our work with the Institute way back in June, which now seems like a lifetime ago.  As we tie up the final loose ends of our respective projects, we reflect on our work these past six months. We’ve had a wealth of enriching experiences, including:

    • Gaining in-depth knowledge and practice with project management, research, writing, and public speaking
    • Facilitating bi-weekly all-team meetings
    • Helping organize and staff the Health Outdoors! Forum on September 21
    • Participating in team-building excursions to Angel Island, the Home Land Security art exhibit, and more
    • Sharing tons of laughs and sweet treats in our office

    Our individual projects, detailed below, helped support the work of the Institute’s Health and Climate programs. 


    My work involved creating and executing a three-part webinar series for the National ParkRx Initiative. The webinar series will serve as a tool for all current and future Park Prescription program creators with its resources, tools, and inspiration for program design and implementation.


    I worked closely with members of the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC) to design and distribute a survey focused on gathering resources and identifying needs within the group related to their three initiatives. I am excited about the results and how this information will be able to assist the collaborative as they move forward in the next year.

    Maria and I feel incredibly grateful and humbled by all of the energy the Institute put into making our fellowship experience what it was. We have learned so much from our colleagues in the Institute, our partner organizations, and the Conservancy as a whole. As we wonder what our future holds, we are certain of one thing – that our fellowship experience – the things we learned and the colleagues we grew close to – will remain with us forever.    

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  • The past month has been a difficult one for climate action. The United States is now in a precarious position after having made great strides towards addressing this issue. However, the changing administration has galvanized many people dedicated to fighting climate change. Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council are just some of the organizations that received donation surges in order to support environmental causes like climate change. Countries, including the U.S., are still moving forward on clean energy. Britain has vowed to close all of its coal power stations by 2025. Right off the heels of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Marrakech, it is understandable that many were and still are reeling from the election. However, the wheels are already in motion to tackle climate change and there is an incredibly driven, intelligent, and compassionate community pushing forward.

    At the Institute, we have the pleasure of working with part of this community—local environmental educators—through our work with the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC). The members we partner with are varied. Some of our member organizations discuss climate change through the lens of how it affects the lives of marine mammals while others use the perspective of energy efficiency, providing their audiences with practical solutions they can take home. However, what we have in common and the strength of our collaborative lies in the fact that all of our participating organizations want to showcase the importance of climate change in their educational programs.

    We’re incredibly excited to announce that in the coming year, we’ll be piloting a coordinated climate action campaign at five or more participating BayCLIC member organizations, focused on getting individuals to reduce their carbon emissions. In addition to this we’ll be participating in regional climate communication trainings based off of the proven National Network of Oceanic and Climate Change Interpreters (NNOCCI) model. Finally, we’ll be collecting local climate science data and sharing it through an online database. We’ve got some lofty goals for 2017 but we have the collective knowledge and dedication to push them through, building towards our mission of making the Bay Area the leader in climate literacy and action. With a collective audience of over three million audience members, Bay-CLIC is poised to make a huge impact with the products and services that we provide.

    You can hear more about BayCLIC and our climate action campaign at this year’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, the premier conference on geophysical sciences, where we’ll be presenting. We look forward to sharing the Institute’s work with BayCLIC and coming together with the science community around our common cause of fighting climate change.

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  • ParkRx Webinar Successes

    Over the past several months, the National ParkRx Initiative administered a series of webinars relating to Park Prescription programs. The theme of the series was creating/strengthening Park Prescription programs and the three webinars focused on partnership, needs assessments, and implementation/evaluation, respectively.

    Attendance was robust for all of the sessions, with 260 registrants for Part I, 236 for Part II, and 199 for Part III. Based on pre-webinar registration questions, participants came from a variety of professional fields, including the parks/recreation and public health/medical industries. Participants most often expressed challenges with partnership, funding, and attendance in their Park Prescription programs.

    After each webinar ended, attendees were directed to a post-session survey. The overall results of these surveys show that 98% of attendees thought their knowledge increased as a result of the webinar.  82% of attendees thought the webinar helped them create/implement a Park Prescription program. Questions participants had during and after the webinars revolved around topics such as program development, partnership-building, funding, and program evaluation.

    Based on participant feedback, the webinars were helpful for many individuals. The audience’s level of understanding of Park Prescription programs ranged from “wanting to learn about Park Prescriptions” to “wanting to improve an existing program”. Even so, the vast majority of attendees left each webinar with more knowledge and ability to create or strengthen a Park Prescription program.

    If you’d like to view recordings of the webinars and resources distributed, please visit  

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  • Opt Outside on "Green Friday"

    At the Institute we take advantage of every opportunity to spend time outside, which is why we are fans of the new Opt Outside movement that encourages people to spend Black Friday outdoors instead of shopping. California state parks are joining in on the fun as well and offering free admission passes for "Green Friday." In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are showing our gratitude for parks and open spaces by sharing our plans to spend Black Friday outdoors. Hopefully it will encourage others to opt outside with us!


    This Friday, I will be hanging out in Golden Gate Park with my friends. Each year we try to spend Black Friday outside and with one another because not only are we reminded of the beauty of nature, but also reminded of how thankful we are for one another.


    I’ll be running around the lakes in Marin. While I have not always appreciated running as much as I do now, it was something I started doing during my summers home from college to spend time outside with my dad. Before work, we would drive out to one of the lakes in the Mt. Tam watershed and he would keep pace with me and I ran/walked, encouraging me as I slowly gained stamina throughout the summer. A love of trail running is one of the many lasting impressions that my dad has made on me and, while I’m home with my family over the holidays, it’s a tradition I look forward to keeping alive.


    This Friday, I'll be taking a nature walk with my family on Mt. Tam or at a local beach. Although the kids are too young for a long hike, they enjoy being out in nature looking at the plants and keeping an eye out for squirrels, deer, and other animals. I feel so grateful that we have access to nature here in the Bay Area so my kids can grow up having this type of outdoor experience.


    I’ve been rethinking the meaning of Thanksgiving especially after participating in the Indigenous People's Sunrise Ceremony last year on Alcatraz. This year, I plan to take refuge in nature for the entire holiday in Joshua Tree National Park. 


    On Friday, I will be down in Los Angeles and will be taking a long walk on the beach boardwalk near my parents’ house. Even when it is the end of November, the surfers will still be out in wetsuits waiting it out for the big wave. 


    This Black Friday, I’ll be spending time outside with family. I’m thankful for all my loved-ones. I’m thankful for the delicious meals I get to share with my family. Lastly, I’m grateful for parks where I can burn off second-helpings of pie!  


    I’ll be ice skating this Black Friday. I’m thankful for ice skating because it’s a fun way to get exercise and it takes me back to my figure skating days at Cornell!


    On Friday you can find me walking in the hills behind my parents' house with my entire family. I am grateful to have grown up in the Bay Area with so many beautiful trails at my doorstep, and I'm especially grateful during the holidays because I'm able to spend time in nature with the people I love.


    This Black Friday, I’ll be outside. I’m thankful that there are so many parks with beautiful views to choose from in San Francisco.


    This Friday, I’ll be laying out and intentionally doing nothing in my backyard and garden. I’m thankful to have a green space so near me and for the brief reprieve from the pressure of always doing something or being productive. Even when I’m home, I oftentimes feel like I should be doing something with my time. Being outside is a good reminder that it’s okay to just be present and enjoy your surroundings.

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  • Park Prescriptions Program Panel at American Public Health Association Conference. Photo courtesy of Donna Leong.

    The American Public Health Association Annual Meeting took place in Denver earlier this month and I had the privilege of attending on behalf of the Institute at the Golden Gate. For the Institute’s work at the intersection of parks and public health, it was important for us to understand how parks fit into the priority areas of this large field of public health. Joining 12,000 other colleagues, I saw firsthand the enthusiasm that these public health professionals had for community health promotion.

    For community health promotion, APHA looks at the local services that can be accessed for healthier communities; parks, unsurprisingly, were important parts of the social fabric of community engagement. It is always heartening to hear the importance placed on parks from other sectors and the public health professionals at APHA acknowledged the potential that parks had not only to increase public health, but to also create connected communities and mitigate climate change. The emphasis on creating upstream solutions framed the role of parks on creating vibrant communities.

    Additionally, I went to show support for the National ParkRx Initiative, which had a panel presentation. As a testament to how parks are received in the public health community, the room was filled and became standing-room only. Drs. Jean Coffey, Nooshin Razani, Robert Zarr, and Daniel Porter discussed their Park Prescriptions programs, which dot the nation, from DC to Vermont, and Texas to California. As equally engaged as the doctors were in their work, it was also exciting to hear the level of enthusiasm that the audience had for the topic. Psychiatric nurses, community liaisons, and students wanted to understand how they could incorporate park and nature-based prescriptions into their own line of work.

    As with many conversations around Park Prescriptions, the important question is not just why incorporate the program, but how to incorporate the program? A sentiment that I took away from the conversation was that the first step to incorporating it into any public health field was to try. The entire APHA conference was a crash course in understanding how creativity and a can-do attitude can create a multitude of effective public health solutions. How did communities help to regulate the consumption of tobacco products? They tried programs that would reduce the number of storefront advertisements for them. Now, most counties in the nation are adopting this practice of working with local stores to reduce environmental advertisements of tobacco. How can communities start using parks to create community cohesion, mitigate climate change impacts, and improve human health? The Institute at the Golden Gate is trying out its programs that address these issues and so are our partners. 

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  • Resistance and Resilience

    Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, National Historic Landmarks Program

    Sometimes, visiting National Parks and National Monuments can be a triggering experience. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of a painful past. Sometimes it’s a reminder that our national heroes subscribed to hurtful prejudices. But what can be most painful is not seeing your story anywhere, where your voice, your history, and your ancestors seem invisible. 

    In these spaces, I’ve learned to look deeper; I’ve learned to look for the resistance and resilience. I remind myself of the community organizing that happened at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former Japanese internment camp. I look for the handiwork of the indigenous folks that built San Francisco’s Presidio – creating a unique architectural aesthetic that Californians sometimes take for granted. Looking for the resistance and resilience reminds me that my voice matters and that my work matters. I am reassured that my contributions are of value, no matter the circumstances. 

    This is a timely reminder for this election season. With all the apocalyptic rhetoric swimming around, it’s easy to think that our challenges are insurmountable. It’s also easy to think that our voice only matters when our candidate is in office, or when our ballot measure has passed. But that’s not what our National Parks, our living history books, teach us. 

    Our National Parks teach us that it’s often the work happening in adversity, when things don’t go our way, that are the game-changers for our country. 

    So I hope you have a joyful election day; but, if that doesn’t happen, I hope your vote may be a voice for change.  

    This blog post was written by Urban Program Manager Elyse Rainey.

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  • Two Years On...

    Our first Health Fellow, Hector Zaragoza, shares with us what he has been up to over the past year since he wrote a guest blog post for us. He has gained valuable experience in the public sector since working at the Institute at the Golden Gate and we are excited to learn more about his work.

    It has been two years since I was the Health and Wellness Fellow at the Institute at the Golden Gate. Since then, I have been a Volunteer Coordinator for Canal Alliance, a local non-profit that provides services to recent immigrant arrivals, and more recently, a Public Benefits Specialist enrolling individuals in public assistance programs like CalFresh, CalWORKs, and Medi-Cal for the County of Marin. I’m also in the middle of applying to graduate school for a Master’s in Public Policy. At this point, I have worked for the private sector, the nonprofit sector, and now the public sector and one thing rings true: collaboration, data analysis and evaluation, ideation and iteration are all critical skills for tackling any issue. The Institute does an amazing job in cultivating these traits.

    My primary duty at the Department of Health and Human Services is to interpret the state and county regulations as they pertain to public assistance programs and determine a client's eligibility for them. Marin is traditionally associated with opulence but the lower-income community often goes unnoticed and to some extent, marginalized. The services we offer provide a lifeline to those in need. Many have been laid off, others are recent arrivals settling in to their new country, and many are simply trying to increase their competitiveness in the job market by going back to school and gaining new skills. The services are a stop-gap measure for them to find some stability on their way to self-reliance.

    In addition to this, I am actively participating in the evaluation process of redesigning the on-boarding process for new employees by providing direct feedback. Essentially, we are developing a blueprint and its complementary toolkit to make on-boarding of new staff a more seamless transition that enables them to become more effective in their work and develop a sense of solidarity with the organization's mission and each other. My experience going through the pilot-stage of its implementation has been critical in informing leadership of areas for improvement. I have also carried over the enthusiasm around the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area collaborative to my new office. Although we are fitted with ergonomic workstations (automated desks are the best!) we still suffer the consequences of office life. Therefore, I established the Mile Challenge. Each member of my immediate team is encouraged to track their distance covered in a day whether it be biking, walking, running, or even dancing. This information is gathered and displayed on a whiteboard in the office where we see our progress as we attempt to log all 3,252 miles between our office and the statue of liberty in New York. We’re almost there! 

    My third special project is creating tools to facilitate casework processing in a thorough and timely manner. This includes: advanced excel case management sheets, flow charts, timelines, and as part of my most innovative set, a “how-to” checklist infographic. I will also be taking part in the development and implementation of our outreach strategy by conducting community focus groups.

    All of these special projects are inspired by traits espoused and practiced at the Institute - go beyond your stipulated duties of the job description and have a deeper impact. Let the spirit of challenging convention guide you into unexplored territory that ultimately contributes to a more fulfilling professional life. So, how are you stepping outside your comfort zone?

    Hector Zaragoza
    (760) 333-9662

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  • Last week I traveled to beautiful Madison, Wisconsin for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) annual conference. The week was full of illuminating sessions on the most pressing issues facing environmental education. There was also a lot of cheese curd consumption.

    One of the most exciting things about the conference was the significant focus on climate change. During the opening ceremony, NAAEE leadership discussed climate change as one of its focal areas, which will inspire future research and professional development opportunities offered by NAAEE. The audience was also galvanized by the opening keynote speaker, famed academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist, David Takayoshi Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki talked about the relatively new phenomenon of the polarization of the issue of climate change as well as the heart behind what environmental education strives to do—cultivate stewards of the planet and safeguard our most precious resources, many of which we could not live long without, such as clean air, water, and soil. Looking at this issue from a 30,000 foot view really helped frame the larger purpose of environmental education; you could tell by the standing ovation Mr. Suzuki received at the end of his speech.

    After this inspirational kick-off, the conference continued to showcase high-quality sessions. Some of the most memorable sessions I attended included one on a comprehensive literature review on what works in climate education. In this session, the presenters shared out some of the main challenges in climate education, such as it being a topic that is invisible, distant, uncertain, debated, and hopeless. After going over 1,000 peer reviewed journal articles and narrowing down the articles that met the standards for academic rigor, the researchers found some fascinating takeaways on combating these challenges. These included much of what the Institute has found in our own research, such as focusing on climate change impacts on local ecosystems, using inquiry-based activities, and involving individuals in community-based climate action projects.

    Another session that really stuck out was a workshop on creating a climate education toolkit. The beginning half of the workshop was focused on looking at excerpts on climate change from science textbooks, paying special mind to the language used. It revealed that even in California some of the language used in public school textbooks gave the impression that human-caused climate change isn't agreed on by the vast majority scientists and that the consequences might not be bad. In the second part of the workshop, we were split into smaller groups and were able to brainstorm a framework for our ideal climate education curriculum. This provided a valuable opportunity to think through what essential elements some educators are hoping to incorporate into their lessons. In our group, we identified that we want climate science curriculum to discuss the scientific consensus around climate change, the scientific processes/methods that scientists use to get to their conclusions, science reasoning skills, basic information on climate processes, and more.

    Overall, I was impressed with the quality and the content of the presentations. I was no less impressed with the dedication of the environmental educators who attended the conference in order to walk their talk and educate themselves. Leaving Wisconsin, I felt energized and confident that we have a brigade of intelligent, passionate, and highly motivated educators that care deeply for the work they do.

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  • Convene with Purpose

    This week's blog post is written by Jamie Yeh, Convene marketing consultant. Jamie brings more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience to the Institute at the Golden Gate. Working on Convene allows her to use this depth of knowledge to promote a personal passion—parks and public spaces—and bring awareness to a program creating more accessibility to organizations large and small. Prior to joining the Institute, Jamie worked with the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

    November begins the special Institute at the Golden Gate rate period at Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate. Extending through April of next year, this rate provides a discounted rate for nonprofit or government organizations gathering to discuss conservation and environmental issues.

    Cavallo Point is a world-class, LEED-certified lodge constructed on national park grounds. As such, they are focused on furthering the National Park Service’s mission to preserve natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. It was built in a unique partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Together, they focus on the shared vision to maintain the beautiful surrounding historic and natural features of Fort Baker while providing inspiring meeting space for the exchange and discussion of environmental topics.

    The Institute-Cavallo Point partnership—known as the Convene program—supports fostering new ideas, sharing best practices, encouraging leadership, and supporting public policy changes that will benefit people and the planet. We believe that parks and public lands can play a critical role in tackling many of our biggest social and environmental challenges and hope the national park setting facilitates discussions that lead to specific plans and actions.

    The Convene program welcomes all environmentally-focused organizations and meetings, and especially those that:
    - Are action-oriented
    - Represent diverse perspectives and sectors
    - Provide for public engagement
    - Have national and international impact
    - Serve as a model for others
    - Inspire organizational and individual commitment and action
    - Result in partnerships
    - Disseminate results
    - Build youth as future leaders
    - Contribute to the Institute’s breadth and depth

    We hope you take advantage of this special rate period at Cavallo Point, where great ideas and great spaces meet.

    Find out more about the Convene program, if your group qualifies for the special discounted rate, and how to apply by visiting our Convene page.

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  • 3rd National ParkRx Initiative Convening

    National ParkRx Initiative Convening Attendees

    Last week, the Institute hosted the 3rd National ParkRx Initiative Convening in St. Louis, along with our partners: NRPA and NPS. At this convening, we discussed the next phases of development for not only the National ParkRx Initiative, but also for the ParkRx movement, as it relates to each individual program.

    At the meeting, we discussed roles, responsibilities, fundraising goals, and communications plans for the National ParkRx Initiative. We were grateful to the dozens of people and agencies that came to the convening, as we were able to take a day to reflect on the collective goals of these many different organizations. At the National ParkRx Initiative, we know that there are many different ways that programs have started and we are interested in building up the Initiative to be able to support many different types of ParkRx programs.

    When we had met in 2014 for the 2nd National ParkRx Initiative Convening, only a handful of ParkRx programs were on the ground; now, the US Surgeon General has approved of ParkRx and dozens of programs have started their second phase of development. It is quite a different landscape that we are working within now and the Initiative is excited to bolster its strategic direction. This strategic direction will bolster the National ParkRx Initiative’s role as the support system for different programs both in existence and starting up. We will reveal more information once the plans have solidified. 

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  • Mid-Fellowship Update

    When I began my position as Health Fellow with the Institute in June, I never could have imagined time would fly by so quickly. In what feels like an instant, three months have come and gone.

    I suppose my sense of time has been skewed by the last four years of my life – the constant buzz of assignments, exams, and extracurricular activities in college stretch thin the hours in each day and make weeks feel like months. This fellowship has introduced me to the fast-paced reality of the working world.

    During my first and second months with the Institute, I dove headfirst into learning about the National ParkRx Initiative and planning for the webinar series I am organizing. I spent my time brainstorming what the webinars would cover, contacting and giving direction to potential panelists, and devising marketing and communications strategies to get the word out about the series.

    Once the webinar topics, panelists, and logistics were sorted out, I focused my energy on the first webinar in the series. My third month was spent refining the details of and marketing the first webinar.  The session went live on Wednesday, September 28, with Donna Leong, the Institute’s Health Program manager, moderating the session. 151 individuals participated and engaged in the webinar - it was a success! (If you’d like to view a recording, visit

    That brings me to now. As excited as I am to delve deeper into my projects, I also realize that my time with the Institute is slowly coming to an end. Despite this, I am excited for the next step in my professional journey, and I will be eternally grateful for all of the skills I have acquired during my time here. I know I have already grown immensely as a professional and I am thrilled to continue learning from my colleagues and assignments.

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  • On September 21, 2016 the Institute’s health program convened 200 Bay Area parks, public health, non-profit, and academic professionals at the Health Outdoors! Parks and Public Health Forum.

    As an event, Health Outdoors! sought to bring together those who work at the intersection of health and nature, and provide them with a space to learn from one another, share best practices, and build partnerships.

    Through attending this forum, participants gained a solid understanding of:

    • Clinical evidence of parks’ impact on individual and community health
    • Evidence-based parks programs that are making a difference in community health
    • Building key partnerships that can achieve systems change and promote health equity
    • Strategies and free resources to create physical activity programming

    This event took place at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, and was put together in collaboration with the Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area Collaborative, Bay Area Moves! and made possible by Kaiser Permanente.

    In the morning attendees had the opportunity to listen to dynamic and engaging plenary speakers Dr. Nooshin Razani and Dr. Nina Roberts, who both made the case about why it is important to be physically active outdoors in nature, and why it is essential for communities to have both equal and equitable access green space. In addition to listening to speakers who are the leaders in the fields, one of the morning highlights was the physical activity break where attendees learned the dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The morning session ended with a panel of park and health agencies who have been successful in creating park prescription programs in the Bay Area.

    During lunch not only did everyone at the forum have the opportunity to network with one another, but attendees also had the opportunity to experience the many health benefits of nature firsthand through a ranger-led tour of Fort Mason and yoga on the Great Meadow.

    In the afternoon attendees attended two sessions of workshops that provided them with strategies and best practices around how to leverage health and park partnerships to create equitable built environments, ways to incorporate physical activity into current programs, creating park prescription programs, and creating programs that attract diverse communities.

    Overall, the Health Outdoors! Parks and Public Health Forum was a great success. To be there as both a volunteer and an attendee was truly a rewarding and amazing experience. The excitement and energy  around the opportunity to learn and collaborate from one another was palpable and felt by both those presenting and those attending various workshops. 

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  • Home Land Security: Art in the Parks

    Photo/design courtesy of Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

    I’ve been a little weary about listening to the upcoming political debates.  The ability to talk about complicated issues in a compassionate, nuanced way is a skill that seems to be atrophying within a political climate of catch-phrases and name-calling.  I sometimes avoid tough conversations, not because these issues aren’t important to me, but because I don’t know how to argue against a sound-bite.  And it’s not just me avoiding conflicting perspectives.  As more and more Americans rely on the internet for news, we’re becoming overly reliant on algorithms that feed us information and viewpoints similar to our own.  We’re trapped in our own social-media fueled echo chambers

    That’s why I’m excited about the new Home Land Security exhibit happening in a number of former military structures at the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. This free art exhibit explores complicated issues about home, national security, and borders.  As a black woman, I have a lot of privilege around these issues – one particular privilege being that I frequently don’t have to think about them.  I can go anywhere in the U.S., and no one questions my immigration status, or whether it’s safe to fly on a plane with me.  Up until now, I haven’t spent much time reflecting on issues like immigration, but it’s time for that to change.   I need to break free from my own echo-chamber.  This exhibit is a timely opportunity to reflect on pressing national concerns like Syrian refugees and immigration reform.  It’s a safe place for me to consider other perspectives while challenging my own beliefs. 

    Art is a powerful medium to explore place and the current issues of today.  The art in Home Land Security seems particularly poignant, in that it’s housed within former military barracks on National Park land.  What better place to talk about home, than in our National Parks – democratic spaces owned by all Americans?

    Home Land Security features 18 artists from 11 different countries, and is open until December 18th.  This exhibit is a collaboration between the FOR-SITE Foundation, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust. 

    This exhibit is also a part of the National Parks Service’s Art in the Parks programming.  If you would like to learn how to utilize the power of art in green spaces, the Institute at Golden Gate will be co-hosting an upcoming Art in the Parks webinar on September 29, 2016 from 10:00 – 11:00 AM PDT.   Click here to register. 

    Join me in learning more about national security, borders, and how these issues shape our identities and perceptions of home.  Challenge yourself to have a more complicated (and courageous) conversation.  

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  • Midway Through My Fellowship

    In exactly two days, I will have been the Climate fellow at the Institute for three months. In such a short amount of time, I feel like I’ve done so much!  During my first month, I jumped right into my project, working with members of the Bay Area Climate Impact Literacy Collaborative (Bay-CLIC) to draft the first version of the resource inventory survey. This survey will identify existing resources and needs within Bay-CLIC as they begin creating tools and resources for educators teaching climate change. Before I knew it, it was July and I was preparing to present this first draft to the entire collaborative at my first meeting. 


    After receiving great feedback on my work so far, August was dedicated to updating, meeting collaborative members, and redrafting the next version of the survey. Now that I’ve learned more about the goals of Bay-CLIC, I felt like I was able to provide more suggestions and ask better questions on how to get the best data from this survey. In between phone calls and doodle polls, I celebrated my birthday with the Institute which happened to fall on our “Fun Friday”. We spent the day hiking Angel Island, enjoying the sunshine, and eating lots of mini donuts. 


    This month, I’ve been working on the final draft of the survey and as an additional project, I’m creating an infographic for Bay-CLIC to illustrate the organizational diversity and reach of the collaborative.  In the next few weeks, I will be preparing for the next Bay-CLIC meeting and for life after the survey launch. I’m excited to see our results and what else this fellowship has in store for me!

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    Two weeks ago, the National Park Service celebrated its 100 years in action. Here at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy we commemorated the occasion with a picnic with our partners and park allies, the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust. In between burgers, cake, and friendly chatter, we had a number of presentations by park leadership representing these three organizations. One of the pervasive themes running through many of their speeches was the topic of climate change. At one point, the audience was asked to think about the founders of the Park Service and what they might have predicted their idea of the parks would look like in a hundred years. 

    We hear so much about tipping points in the climate conversation and it got me thinking that this centennial is a symbolic tipping point and an opportunity to re-envision many of the roles of parks and public lands on the issue of climate change. In a recent interview Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, stated that “fundamentally, [climate change is] the biggest challenge the National Park Service has ever faced.” Undoubtedly, it is a threat to the cultural natural resources that make American parks special; however, parks have a unique opportunity to serve as living laboratories for addressing this problem.  Parks also benefit from dedicated staff who are trained communicators, many of whom are becoming educated on this issue and are using their parks as a venue through which to talk about climate change in a way that provides this issue with a physical, personal context that visitors are interested in. In the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, for example, park staff no doubt emphasize that sea level rise could harm many of our coastal resources from Lands End to Crissy Field. 

    It’s no secret that acceptance and action on climate change has lagged in the United States. It’s amazing to think that prior to 2009, the National Park Service’s parent agency, the Department of Interior, did not have a formal policy on climate change. However, given this bumpy start, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. The National Park Service now has a number of strategic plans to address climate change, offers trainings on climate science and communications, and provides overall support across the service through its Climate Change Response Program. While this commitment to addressing climate change is laudable, many park interpreters face challenges in discussing this issue at their park sites. The reasons range from worry over visitor reaction (particularly negative reaction) to a lack of information on local, place-based climate impacts.   

    The good news is that many of these challenges are remediable. Communications specialists and social scientists are churning out new research regularly on tips and tricks for communicating on climate change which park staff can take back home to their sites. This includes focusing on clear, concise messages, giving visitors actions that they can take to address this issue, and infusing the conversation with personal stories as opposed to just statistics. Perhaps most importantly, a recent survey showed that most park visitors would like to receive information on climate change at the parks they visit; 91% even stated that they would change their behaviors in the park or refuge they visited to mitigate climate change.

    We’ve come such a long way since President Woodrow signed a bill in 1916 mandating that the National Park Service conserve the cultural and natural resources within the parks and ensure that they are both enjoyed by the public and preserved for future generations.  Now we are grappling with new, 21st century challenges such as how to make sure park provide welcome environments for the changing racial makeup of the United States as well as how to tackle human-caused climate disruption, which still has many unknown impacts. Luckily, our national parks are making brave efforts to discuss and address these issues head on. 

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  • Going, Going, Gone

    I checked an item off of my bucket list last week: I saw a glacier up close while visiting Glacier National Park. All of the national parks are on my bucket list, but Glacier National Park shot to the top these past few years when I started learning about the disappearing glaciers. I knew that every passing year would make the glaciers less and less accessible, so I had to act soon and I’m glad I did. I hiked 7.8 strenuous miles round trip to be right up close to Grinnell Glacier, the most accessible one in the park.

    I had a few opportunities during my trip to hear and read about the effects of global warming on the glaciers. Most of the park signage refers to how the glaciers will likely all be gone by 2030, maybe even sooner. It was hard not to feel sad while staring out at these amazing ice formations and knowing that they won’t be around for much longer. That’s why it’s so important for those who haven’t experienced national parks, especially this one, to be able to explore them now.

    Another special moment of my trip was attending the Centennial celebration hosted by the Glacier National Park Service and the Glacier National Park Conservancy. It gave a peek into the human element behind the parks. Even though I work for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and I know all of the hard work that goes into protecting the parks and open spaces for everyone to enjoy, it's been a while since I've seen it from an outsider’s perspective. To Glacier’s credit, they do a phenomenal job of running the park and putting on programs.

    As part of the birthday celebration, the park was hosting an Instameet. This was a perfect example of how the parks are trying to attract new visitors, especially younger generations, through social media. As a millennial myself, the thought of having my picture on an Instagram account that has 334 thousand followers is very enticing (though not as enticing as dinner, seeing as I didn’t stay long enough for the photo). It also helped that they had cake.

    What I learned from my trip and what I hope others will learn is that these parks aren’t just pretty places; they are places for people to interact, share their stories, and make new friends. Parks bring people together, physically and emotionally to care about the same things, like open spaces. Parks help create friendships, form new bonds and strengthen existing ones, and can change peoples’ perspectives. Glacier National Park is the most awe-inspiring natural wonder I’ve ever experienced, and I hope everyone has a chance to visit it soon before all of the glaciers are going, going, gone.

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  • National ParkRx Initiative Webinars


    Are you wondering how you can strengthen your agency’s park prescription program? Want to start a park prescription program, but don’t know how? Unsure of what park prescriptions are, but eager to learn more?

    Join us for the National ParkRx Initiative’s three-part webinar series this fall, Creating and Strengthening Park Prescription Programs. The webinars are free, open to the public, and will explore some of the most important elements for successful park prescription programs. Experts will provide case studies and best practices from their own successful park prescription programs.

    For some background on the organizer of these webinars, the National ParkRx Initiative aims to strengthen the connection between health, parks, and public lands to improve physical and mental health of individuals and communities. By collaborating with national partners and subject-matter experts, the Initiative helps improve the quality of new and existing park prescription. The Initiative is currently led by the Institute at the Golden Gate, the National Recreation and Park Association, and the National Park Service.

    Why webinars, you might ask? In the process of developing a park prescription toolkit, there were several key themes that emerged as essential to the successful creation and execution of park prescription programs. These topics have been formatted into three different webinars:

    In Part I, participants will get a general overview of the park prescriptions movement while learning about the specific needs, roles, and responsibilities of both park and health professionals. Speakers will focus on how to build partnerships. In Part II, participants will learn about why needs assessments are essential to successful park prescription programs. Speakers will focus on how to conduct and use space and community assessments to establish program modules. In Part III, participants will learn about park prescription program implementation, evaluation, marketing, and outreach. Speakers will focus on program sustainability. 

    Register for the webinars by clicking the links above, or click here for more information. We hope to see you there!

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  • Women at Work - Rosie Rally 2016

    Richmond Rosies, photo courtesy of Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park

    It’s no secret that I enjoy a good head wrap.   They’re colorful accessories that protect my powerful ‘fro from the massive fog clouds rolling around Fort Mason.  I first learned the utility of head wraps while working on a farm.   After finding too much debris tangled into my hair, I started wrapping my hair up in a scarf.  With my hair wrapped I could clean out the chicken coop, and no one would know because of my perfectly preserved hair-do.  I have since associated headscarves as a symbol of women at work.

    This Saturday the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historic Park will celebrate another iconic scarf-wearing, workingwoman. The 2016 Rosie Rally, in honor of Rosie the Riveter, will be held August 13 starting at 10 AM.  This national park will be vying to reclaim the Guinness World Record for most folks dressed as Rosie the Riveter, and everyone’s invited! Since 2014, Richmond, California has been in a friendly competition with another wartime boom town, Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Ypsilanti currently has the record for most Rosies (with over 2,000 officially counted), but Richmond Rosies won’t take this sitting down.

    If you want to help Richmond, CA regain bragging rights, please join us this Saturday.  Rosies of all genders and ages are welcome and counted.  Please be mindful that in order to be claimed towards the official Rosie count you must:

    • Have a red bandanna with polka dots, worn in the traditional style
    • Dark blue collared shirt and dark blue pants OR dark blue coveralls
    • Closed toe black or brown shoes
    • Red socks

    Limited amounts of red polka dot bandannas and red socks are for sale at the National Park Visitor Education Center should you need them. Click here for more details on this awesome celebration. 

    See you there!

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