Diverse NPS Wilderness Inquiry

Diverse NPS: Wilderness Inquiry

As we open another month, we’re sharing another installment in our community effort to showcase organizations promoting social justice and more inclusive access to public lands.  This month’s feature organization is Minnesota non-profit Wilderness Inquiry.

Wilderness Inquiry Team
📷 - Claire Hassler Image provided by Wilderness Inquiry


Wilderness Inquiry

Wilderness Inquiry Mission:

Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is to connect people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to each other and the natural world through shared outdoor adventures.
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In 1974, Bill Simpson, Tom Rasmussen and Greg Lais took a group of 14-year-old students on a winter camping trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.  What began as an effort to demonstrate that anyone can enjoy the wilderness on its own terms, Greg and college pal Paul Schurke later organized a trip to the Boundary Waters in 1977 that included two people who used wheelchairs and two people who are deaf. That trip opened new possibilities and changed the lives of everyone involved, including Greg and Paul. Since 1978, Wilderness Inquiry has been in the forefront of providing equitable access to the outdoors for people from all walks of life. This passion was born from a deep concern for the environment and a desire to share it with people who did not traditionally get outdoors.  

Since 1978 Wilderness Inquiry has directly served more than half a million individuals from all walks of life – diverse youth, individuals with differing abilities, and others who face barriers of use to public lands and waterways. Their programs such as Canoemobile, Gateway to Adventure, and Families Together help connect people to the outdoors and each other.

The Wilderness Inquiry JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion) Commitment

Wilderness Inquiry’s mission is built upon the foundational concept of inclusion. Through their work, they believe in building a just outdoor community where everyone belongs. They are committing to acknowledging the systemic barriers and structures of oppression that limit access to outdoor spaces for many. 

The team at Wilderness Inquiry also acknowledges the responsibility they hold as an organization of privilege in doing their part to break these barriers down. One step of many they are taking in their newly founded Wilderness Inquiry JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion) Commitment, is to listen and make space for individuals and organizations who represent diverse identities to be the leaders in the narrative of outdoor inclusion. They are promoting JEDI across the workplace, integrating it into programs, and living the values together outdoors.

As part of the JEDI initiative, Wilderness Inquiry recently founded “The Inquiry Series: Exploring Inclusivity,” a speaker series featuring leaders in inclusion and diversity from across the country whose incredible work is paving the way to ensure everyone belongs in the outdoors. This webinar-based series is free to register and features monthly speakers whose stories and work challenge the access and inclusion narrative of outdoor recreation and education.

Wilderness Inquiry Campfire
📷 - Julia Schweitzer - Image Provided by Wilderness Inquiry

Follow Wilderness Inquiry on Social

To follow Wilderness Inquiry and their programming initiatives, check out their social media accounts:

Website: https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wildernessinquiry/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WildernessInquiry/

We invite you to join us in making a donation to support Wilderness Inquiry this month. All of the info can be found at  https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/donations-support/make-a-donation/

Wilderness Inquiry Canoe Race
📷 - Hal Tearse - Image Provided by Wilderness Inquiry
📷 - Julia Schweitzer - Image Provided by Wilderness Inquiry

About the DiverseNPS Initative:

As outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of America’s parks, we’ve experienced the benefits of connecting with nature and our diverse landscapes. From city parks where we can get a taste of green amid cemented city blocks, to recharging strolls and hikes in the millions of acres of our state parks, to treks and climbs in the breathtaking landscapes in our national parks, the chance to be in nature is an experience we hold invaluable.

Undoubtedly, our lands should be enjoyed by all of us, but when we look into who is getting access to our lands, we see alarmingly disproportionate statistics that highlight a gap between race and park visitations. When we examine the reasons why these gaps are present—access, education, resources, discrimination and prejudice—we understand that systemic racism in our country is the major contributor to these disappointing disproportions.

In the National Park System, for example, Black Americans make up about 7 percent of visitors, while they are 13 percent of the U.S. population. Moreover, 78 percent of visitors are White.

The end of the Jim Crow era in 1968, showcases that Black American generations have only recently gained the freedom and liberty to move around this country. Still today, minorities face prejudice and discrimination within our outdoor spaces and, often, cannot safely and comfortably enjoy outdoor recreation.


To do so, we are taking action to use our platforms to contribute to the progress that is much needed within the outdoor space and community.

As a part of this community, Park Chasers will join with others in highlighting organizations that are dedicated to bridging the race gap in the outdoor space by connecting opportunities and experiences to people of color.

Each month, we are featuring and focusing on one organization, with the intent to showcase their hard work, raise awareness and support them through funding and donations. We’ll share monthly articles and social media posts along with links for how you can donate.



Organizations like Wilderness Inquiry rely on private donations now more than ever to sustain the work that they do to increase access to the outdoors for everyone.  Consider joining us in making a contribution this month to Wilderness Inquiry or another organization centered on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.


Want to find more information about organizations like Wilderness Inquiry?  To see a full overview of organizations we have supported, follow the link below. On this page you can find information about what organizations like Wilderness Inquiry are doing and how you can donate to them directly.


We have also created a submission form if you know of an organization who’s doing the work to make the outdoors more diverse and inclusive. If you want to see them supported, please submit via the form below:
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