An Immigrant Reflects on the Public Lands That Made Her Feel at Home
Samantha Miller is the community wildlife content coordinator at the National Wildlife Federation.
I spent a lot of my childhood hiking mountains in Vermont. Whether it was through school events, Girl Scout camp, or summer family vacations, I developed a comfort while traversing mountains that has stayed with me for years. Growing up as a first-generation immigrant from Jamaica, winters in Vermont were never a treasured experience in my family, but the summers provided us a heat that felt more similar to the island we previously called home.
The 5.4 hike through Mt. Elmore, in Elmore, Vermont was always a favorite. Being comfortable on a trail is such a wonderful experience. Knowing the path, and never fearing that you’ll get lost turns hiking into a meditative experience. And with friends, a well-traveled hike provides the space for laughter and reflection. Places that remind us of home, of past memories filled with smiles, laughter, and few minor injuries, help us feel connected. Hiking Mt Elmore has always provided that for me.
I gained the values of environmental stewardship as a young girl, and my work today tries to provide similar experiences to historically marginalized groups and communities.
Having unlimited, safe access to quality hikes and trails should be a right of all people. That is why when the National Wildlife Federation partnered with various Black-led organizations to shed light on the challenges that Black people face in safely accessing outdoor green spaces. I felt especially proud to be a part of the Safe Spaces roundtable series, which shed light on the challenges and exclusion that many Black people face. My experiences in the outdoors were one of privilege, but my goal is to help marginalized communities build deeper connections to the land, whether it be through gardening, hiking, outdoor swimming, or camping.
We can’t overlook the importance of feeling safe and welcome when venturing into new lands. As an immigrant, I know this all too well.
So many of our country’s parks and public lands written about in these love notes would not exist but for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This important conservation program was permanently funded when Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act last year. You can learn more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund here.
Would you like to write about public lands that you cherish? Please email Mary Jo Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org for guidelines. You’ll get this cool sticker as a thank you.