New Mountain Dreamers initiative aims to break down barriers in the outdoor world

Javier Pineda, one of thousands of DACA recipients in Colorado, is an active voice in the community to push for more solutions to provide DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship. Recently Pineda runs a new Mountain Dreamer program called Oso Outdoors. He said he wanted Oso Outdoors to address systemic barriers to outdoor access rather than just creating programming.
Mountain Dreamers / Courtesy Photo

A new Mountain Dreamers initiative aims to make outdoor activities fairer for Summit County’s immigrant community.

Javier Pineda, co-founder and program coordinator of Mountain Dreamers, said he grew up enjoying the outdoors. From his family’s orchards in Mexico to being a Boy Scout to continuing his love of nature into adulthood, the importance of the outdoors to him has changed over time. Now he wants to expand access to remove barriers the immigrant community may face when accessing certain aspects of the outdoors.

“Initially, for me, it was important that people had material,” he said. “Then after more thought and more research, we realized it was more of a band-aid because it helps, but it doesn’t really solve the bigger issues.”

Pineda said he wanted Oso Outdoors to tackle systemic barriers rather than just programming. The initiative will seek to identify barriers to access wherever they exist and dismantle them in order to increase opportunities for underrepresented communities in the mountains to access the outdoors and public lands. This can include barriers such as language, cost, or a sense of exclusion in outdoor spaces. Another is knowing how to understand reservation systems, which require a driver’s license, which not everyone has.

“A lot of people like me who look like me might not have the same opportunities, and we face different barriers – some are financial, cultural or the very generic ones that we often talk about,” he said. “I also realize that another barrier that we often don’t want to talk about is the immigration experience, as we like to call it.

Pineda added that he has also encountered obstacles during his participation abroad that the non-immigrant community may take for granted. He said he and a few friends tried to get fishing licenses from a Walmart but were turned down because of their identification. Recipients of DACA, also known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, have specific markings on their driver’s licenses, and at the time, Colorado Parks and Wildlife would not accept them. not.

“Long story short, I came home and posted in this Latino Facebook group, ‘By any chance, does anyone else have this experience with fishing licenses?’ And it’s, there’s a lot of comments like “Yeah, my in-laws” or “my friends did it” and I’m like, “Oh, that’s actually a problem.”

A fly fisherman casts his line for a day on the water in Summit County. One of the activities that Javier Pineda, co-founder and program coordinator of Mountain Dreamers, wants to make more accessible to immigrant communities is fishing.
Cutthroat Anglers / Courtesy Photo

Across the state, others were facing similar issues. While some Walmarts in Colorado would take them, others wouldn’t. This created a gap in access. Pineda said that through a few phone calls with executives, they were able to add these licenses to the list of acceptable IDs for the next cycle. Changing larger systems like these, he said, is what Oso Outdoors is supposed to do.

“I think that’s a crucial part of getting more people to feel comfortable and building the trust — to slowly get to that level of activity if they really want to,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘Why aren’t people doing backcountry (skiing) or close skills?’ It takes a lot of practice to get to this level. So it’s kind of like taking it step by step to sort of build the foundation first.

At the state level, lawmakers are taking action to create and support programs that would support fairness in the outdoor industry. In 2021, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife established its Outdoor Equity Board, which oversees the Outdoor Equity grant program. The grant program received $1.5 million in lottery funds and will receive $3 million by fiscal year 2023-24 and annually thereafter. Grant program funds are intended to encourage and support programs that reduce barriers outside of Colorado, create conservation pathways, or provide environmental and outdoor educational opportunities.

“Our goal will be to get (partners) to fund some projects that increase their ability to be inclusive, maybe it’s a bilingual trailside insurer, or reaching out to the community to find ways to invite people and welcome them to the national forest and all that it has to offer,” said Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers. “Or (it could be) working on problems with some state systems. People in the community like to fish, but you need a fishing license. It’s not that easy to get, especially if you’re an immigrant, if English is not your native language (or) if you may not have an ID There are a lot of obstacles.

Pineda said change in the outside world will not happen overnight, but small changes over time will make larger systemic changes possible.

“How do you move a mountain? You move one pebble at a time.


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