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Using Trails

More Trail Moments with Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada: A Way to Make Strides for the Planet

By: Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada
August 4, 2023

Photo courtesy Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada
Photo courtesy Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada

Este contenido también está disponible en español.

Spending time outside on trails can benefit people, places and the planet. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone, everywhere to make trails a bigger part of their everyday lives! This time on the trail–your Trail Moments–can add up to have a big impact. We caught up with our friend Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada to continue the conversation about what these Trail Moments mean to her and explore how each visit to the trail can be a step toward taking action for the climate while highlighting the importance of access to nature in all communities.

Learn more about Vanessa’s Trail Moments below, then share yours!

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A post shared by Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada (@vanessa_chav)

I spend a lot of time on trails. As a professional runner and skier, I have dedicated a large part of my adult life to being outside, snow or sunshine. But I wasn’t always like this. I often get asked, “where did you grow up skiing?” or “where did you grow up running?”, to which I answer “I didn’t.” A large part of why I didn’t grow up going outdoors is because of the lack of access I experienced. My lived experience has taught me the importance of advocating for climate action and trail access, and how the two are related.

Did you know that communities of color are three times more likely to live in nature-deprived areas with limited or no access to trails, paths or green spaces? This is the legacy of discriminatory legislation from the 1930s called redlining, which put parks in affluent white neighborhoods and coal plants and pavements in the neighborhoods of communities of color. Although redlining has since been deemed illegal, its repercussions still stand. On average, a USDA study shows that trees currently cover approximately 23%  of the formerly redlined neighborhoods and 43%  of the neighborhoods characterized by U.S.-born white populations living in newer housing stock. This means that our access to green spaces and trails remains deeply segregated and inequitable.

Jackson Hole Community Pathway System | Photo by TrailLink user lfrazier303
Jackson Hole Community Pathway System | Photo by TrailLink user lfrazier303

A lack of access to trails and green spaces has large repercussions. Access to the outdoors is a basic human right. On top of that, it is also crucial to our health. Due to redlining, communities of color historically and presently suffer from higher rates of air, water and noise pollution. These same communities have been disenfranchised in their ability to vote, take action and protect the environment. Advocating for clean air and water is inextricably linked to the health of our communities. If we have cleaner air, better access to green spaces, and more trees in our backyards, we will have happier and healthier lives.

Photo by Joey Sackett, graphic by RTC
Photo by Joey Sackett, graphic by RTC

Although climate action can seem like an intimidating task, it is something that each of us is capable of doing in our daily lives. We create change through our daily interactions, and by educating and being informed we can create the next generation of climate stewards. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

1. Go Outside

Removing pollutants from the air is a great way to take climate action, and one place to start is by hitting the trails. Begin to think about how we travel and move through the land. Could we travel to the grocery store using our feet, bikes, or mobility devices instead of our cars? If you’re not sure where to start, use, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s free trail-finder website and app, to find your backyard trails.

2. Invite Others to Go With You

Once you’ve found your favorite local trails, bring a buddy! I find nature is best enjoyed in community with others. Remember that your time outdoors doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive or exclusive to be worthwhile. Find joy in walking down your local pathways with a friend or relative. Extend an invitation to someone who might not know where the trails are. Take time to connect with your local environment.

3. Fight for Something That Matters to You

Whether it’s the ability to run freely down a trail without air pollution, for your kids or future generations to enjoy the same green spaces we have today, or for more folks from your communities to have access to the outdoors. Start there. Having a personal connection to a place fosters a deep sense of connection. When we experience joy and develop a sense of belonging in the outdoors, we feel a greater need to protect the places we love. Use your voice, tell your story. You matter and can make a difference in your backyard and beyond.

Trails are a vessel for us to connect with ourselves, each other and nature. I really can’t think of anything more magical than a trail of a late summer evening or a bright winter morning. Trails are also a tool for us to take action to protect our backyards that we care for so much. The trails are out there waiting for all of us. Opting for active transportation and human-powered mobility benefits both our health and the environment. But in order for everyone to have equitable access to the outdoors, we must first advocate for safe and accessible trails.

Related: #TrailMoments with Vanessa @vanessa_chav


This summer, we’re challenging everyone, everywhere to make more #TrailMoments! From July 31 through Sept. 30, share your favorite Trail Moments with us—whether you’re spending time on the trail commuting, exercising and practicing wellness, connecting with loved ones, exploring the community, volunteering or being in nature. Show us how you’re using the trails by submitting a photo, video and/or your written story using our online form.

Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada | Photo by Micheli Oliver
Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada

Vanessa is a mountain athlete and environmental sociologist who focuses on the intersection of people and nature. As an immigrant and woman of color, Vanessa recognizes the systemic barriers that purposefully keep BIPOC out of outdoor spaces. Taking up space in the outdoor community feels revolutionary. You can keep up with her by following @vanessa_chav on Instagram.

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Everyone deserves access to safe ways to walk, bike, and be active outdoors.