PORTLAND, Maine — Are outdoor spaces welcoming for everyone? That’s the big question one Maine woman and her colleague are tackling in their new podcast, The Trail Ahead.
"The outdoor industry is very homogenous. It's very white," explained ultrarunner, activist, and podcast host Addie Thompson. She and her biracial cohost, Faith Briggs, are traveling the country to meet athletes, scientists, researchers, and activists, all with connections to the outdoors and each representing an underserved population.
Unlike typical podcasts, Briggs and Thompson visit their guests at their homes and head outside to discuss the barriers that Black, indigenous and people of color face when it comes to accessing, enjoying, and even protecting the outdoors.
The idea for the podcast came after Briggs and Thompson made a short documentary, "This Land," in 2020.
“People think that because public lands are for the public that all people feel welcome there and that is just not the case,” Briggs said in the film.
As a white woman raised in Maine, Thompson was apprehensive about being part of a documentary about race, but Briggs persuaded her.
"It was really important to have Addie in the conversation too because if only the people of color are talking to themselves about these issues, it doesn't change anything," Briggs explained.
After the documentary was released, Thompson and Briggs realized there was an appetite for a continuing conversation about diversity in the outdoors.
Companies Patagonia and Merrell threw their support behind the podcast as sponsors and have given the first-time podcasters some serious legitimacy.
Briggs said it's all about sharing stories.
"It's one thing to read the facts in a book but it's another to have those facts come to life through personal experience," she said.
At its heart, The Trail Ahead highlights the work and accomplishments of people of color in the outdoors. People like Dr. Rae Wynn Grant, an ecologist and a fellow at the National Geographic Society.
"I wasn't exposed to nature when I was a kid," Grant said on the podcast. "In order to make a space where everyone has the opportunity to participate in the science that will make our planet a better place, we have to eliminate racism altogether."
The conversations often focus on the question of access to outdoor places like national parks and monuments, surf breaks, and climbing walls. But they're also an invitation to people of color to participate in outdoor sports.
"It's not just about access. It's not just about can you afford the gear? Can you find transportation to the mountain or the surf break?" Thompson said. "It's also about knowledge and community and if you are lucky enough to be welcomed into a community that brings you in with open arms and tells you all the cool local spots and also maybe teaches you the sport itself. That's amazing but let's talk about what happens when that initial invitation isn't even there."
Briggs and Thompson hope the experiences and knowledge their guests share will help listeners think a little differently about the outdoor spaces they enjoy.
"The outdoors is a meditative and rejuvenating space and the more people that can join the better," says Thompson.
*If Addie Thompson looks familiar, that is because she is 207's Peggy Keyser's daughter.