Employees of Pittsburgh's parks community and advocates who utilize park spaces want more diversity in leadership roles. This will make minorities feel more comfortable in outdoor spaces, they said at the fourth Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Exchange, held at Frick Park on Friday.
Chastity Bey, a nature educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, started out as a camp counselor at the non-profit and said she was one of the few black people on staff.
"We need to have more people who are diverse teaching, to have more people feel welcome and want to come to our camps," Bey said.
Jamie Upshaw, founder of Autism Urban Connections, said better facilities for children with disabilities are also needed. Upshaw has a son on the spectrum, and she said park staff should be trained in how to identify and interact with kids who have disabilities.
"Most parents don't go out willingly and say, well my child has autism," she said. "We go in and we're assessing where we fit in."
Heather Sage, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's director of community projects, said the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society has realized that there's room for improvement when it comes to equity, inclusion and accessibility.
"We wanted to ensure that we were hearing stories from people in their authentic voices, rather than listening to ourselves talk to ourselves," Sage said.