Blog Post Abbey Robertson, Vanessa Pius Jul 1, 2024

3 Reasons NPCA's 2024 ‘Pride in Our Parks’ Was Our Best Yet

Couldn’t make it to NPCA’s June events celebrating LGBTQ+ pride? Here’s a recap that we hope  inspires you to join us next year. 

At NPCA, we know the importance of ensuring parks are places where all feel welcome to learn and explore. Aside from abiding by Leave No Trace principles and park rules and regulations, there’s no wrong way to visit a park. Spending time in national parks can make for meaningful experiences that stick with visitors for a lifetime.

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In the spirit of ensuring parks are equitable, accessible places for all, NPCA and our partners at Underwood hosted events in Biscayne, Olympic and Indiana Dunes national parks as part of our annual Pride in Our Parks celebration. The free events were led by friends of NPCA who are leaders in their own virtual outdoor communities and the LGBTQ+ community — Chris & Alex, MB and Mikah. From exploring the Hoh Rainforest to snorkeling off the coast of Florida, attendees had the opportunity to meet other park-loving members of the LGBTQ+ community while learning more about parks and how NPCA works to ensure they are protected.

1. More attendees = more fun

With participants from across the country, these events marked NPCA’s largest Pride in Our Parks ever since the program began four years ago. This meant more people having a great time in the parks, building connections and community, and learning about the importance of ensuring these one-of-a-kind places are protected for future generations to enjoy.

Our Indiana Dunes event drew participants from as close as Chicago and as far away as Lexington, Kentucky. It was powerful to see community members of all ages connect during these events, which offered an opportunity for intergenerational bonding and healing — and help each other out during LGBTQ+ history trivia.

Some participants came solo, others with partners or friends. But everyone had two important things in common: a love for parks and a deep-rooted connection to the LGBTQ+ community. These events marked a lot of firsts for our participants: first national parks, first Pride events, first time feeling comfortable being “out” outside and, in one case, a very successful fourth date.

2. Learning about gender-bending wildlife

While our Pride in Our Parks events aimed to bring together human members of the LGBTQ+ community, there was plenty to learn about the many animals dwelling in our national parks that deviate from the gender binary. For example, the banana slugs found in Olympic National Park can be male, female, both or even shift biologically from having both male and female organs to only female. Attendees at the event in Florida learned about Pepe and Enrique, Florida’s famous same-sex pelican couple, as well as about some of the 1,500-plus species biologists have found exhibiting same-sex behavior.

As Chris & Alex put it in an Instagram post, “For any LGBTQ+ person who’s had any doubts as to whether or not they have a place among the redwoods and volcanoes or are as natural as the parrot fish or blue-headed wrasse of our National Park System, know that you’re just as worth defending and advocating for generations to come.”

3. Having once-in-a-lifetime experiences with new friends

To further connect and engage LGBTQ+ park lovers, NPCA planned an itinerary to help people explore the parks’ varied ecosystems through activities they may not have tried before. In Biscayne National Park, attendees donned snorkeling masks and fins to learn firsthand about the gender-shifting fish of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the other diverse marine life found within the park.

In Indiana Dunes, attendees climbed the sandbanks and removed invasive species with rangers, offering a new perspective on a fascinating and fragile landscape. In Olympic National Park, a hike up the park’s famous Hurricane Ridge Trail made for an epic photoshoot from the trail’s iconic vista along the ridgeline.

As one participant said, “It’s truly amazing how powerful representation can be and how impactful it is to be out in large numbers … It’s moments like this that remind me the power in being out and proud.”

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While this year’s Pride month commemorations have ended, NPCA’s work to ensure parks are equitable, accessible places for everyone to explore and enjoy continues. Whether you choose to summit Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, take a stroll through the cholla in Joshua Tree National Park or learn about LGBTQ+ history at Stonewall National Monument, NPCA knows the importance of ensuring that people of diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities feel welcome. We hope you join us for Pride in Our Parks next year!

About the authors

  • Abbey Robertson Senior Manager, Internal Communcations

    As the senior manager of internal communications, Abbey serves as creative content producer and dedicated resource to staff to ensure NPCA's work, mission and impact are communicated clearly and concisely to all audiences.

  • Vanessa Pius Senior Manager, Social Media and Engagement

    As Senior Manager, Social Media and Engagement, Vanessa advances NPCA’s mission through creative storytelling and engaging the organization’s online community.

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