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Mapp Secures Volunteers to Promote Getting Outdoors

May 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Some see Rue Mapp as a 21st century John Muir of the African-American community.

A vocal outdoor enthusiast whose ideas are frequently sought by the White House, Mapp understands how nature can nurture not only our physical, but emotional wellbeing, according to a news release.

An Oakland, Calif.-based mother of three, Mapp also knows that families that engage in healthy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming and camping can strengthen their relationships, while combating diabetes and other health problems that result from sedentary lifestyles dominated by computers and other electronic devices.

“Everyone talks about the healthcare crisis facing this country, a crisis that is particularly acute in the African-American community. But engagement in the Great Outdoors is something anyone can do right now to improve their physical and emotional health. They just have to get off the couch and do it.”

Unfortunately, black Americans are perceived to have little connection with the Great Outdoors. “How often do you see black people hiking in Yosemite, or sitting around a campfire in a family campground? Not enough.”

But Mapp is working to change that.

Through her website, OutdoorAfro.com, Mapp is starting a movement to get black America into the Great Outdoors. She’s doing this by networking African Africans who already have an interest in hiking or biking or camping or other activities with other African-Americans with similar interests.

The idea, she said, is to encourage African-Americans to network with each other and become more involved with outdoors. OutdoorAfro.com is not only a forum to discuss the need for outdoor engagement, but a planning tool for organizing outings.

“It’s as if she’s creating a black Sierra Club,” said Danielle Lee, a colleague of Mapp who has watched OutdoorAfro grow from an obscure website to one that is frequently accessed by people across the country.

Mapp has also partnered with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and Camp-California.com, which is helping her publicize her efforts in California and across the country.

But between running OutdoorAfro.com and making trips to Washington, D.C., to provide input on initiatives ranging from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to providing ideas to the Department of Interior on ways to engage African-American families in outdoor recreation, Mapp realizes she needs more soldiers to fight alongside her.

“I can’t do all of this myself,” she said.

So Mapp has taken the next logical step: She has recruited a dozen people like her who share her passion for the outdoors. But these folks are not just advocates. They will also organize outdoor activities across the country, from day hikes to overnight camping trips.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before by the black community, at least nothing on this scale,” Mapp said.

Her “team leaders” will initially organize trips on a quarterly basis. But the effort could grow beyond that.

“I am blessed to have found a group of like-minded people who can help me literally move African-Americans into the outdoors in greater numbers.”

Read bios of the new OutdoorAfro volunteers at www.outdoorafro.com.

OutdoorAfro’s regional team leaders include:

  • Karen Bayard, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based college professor and community health educator.
  • Sherrita Cole, an Oakland, Calif. resident mom of a toddler, property manager, and hair care blogger.
  • Melissa Danielle, a New York City resident who promotes healthy lifestyles and wellness through her work as director of Central Brooklyn Wellness.
  • Nkrumah Frazier, a biology research technician at the University of Southern Mississippi and Hattiesburg Green Living Examiner who is focused on the latest science and environmental research.
  • Karla Frye, a Jefferson City, Mo., resident who works as manager of urban initiatives for Missouri State Parks. Frye has previously worked as a journalist, a research analyst, public relations consultant and university professor.
  • Danielle Lee, a St. Louis, Mo., scientist and blogger specializing in mammalogy, ecology and animal behavior.
  • Zoe Polk, a San Francisco, Calif., resident and human rights attorney.
  • Alisha Pye, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based Pilates instructor.
  • Cliff Sorrell, a Bay Area-based landscape architect, assistant scoutmaster and Cub Scout leader.
  • Viva Yeboah, resides in Chicago, and has recently embraced outdoor connections through her participation with Girl Trek.
  • Charles Yellowday, a Bronx, N.Y.-based social services professional.
  • Beky Branagan, an Outdoor Skills Facilitator who teaches Girl Scout Leaders about how to take their troops camping. Based in Arizona, she has an M.S. in recreation administration and served as a medic in the U.S. Army Reserve.

All 12 regional leaders will be organizing day hikes, camping trips, bicycle rides and other activities on a quarterly basis in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, Jefferson City, Mo.; and Atlanta areas.

Schedules of upcoming outings will be posted on OutdoorAfro.com as they become available.

Media outreach efforts involving OutdoorAfro.com are being made possible in part with the support of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which is supporting Mapp’s efforts to actively promote camping and other outdoor recreation activities in the African American community.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com as well as camping opportunities in California and across the country, visit www.Camp-California.com and www.GoCampingAmerica.com.

 

Rue Mapp Sold on KOA’s Park Model Accommodations

April 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp has spent many nights camping in tents and sleeping bags with her three children.

So when she learned that the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA had park model cabins for rent, she was eager to try them out.

More like condos than rustic cabins, these 400-square-foot units come equipped with full size kitchens and bathrooms. They even have a flatscreen TV and a loft for the kids.

“Did we really just go camping?” Mapp asked rhetorically on OutdoorAfro.com, the website she founded to reconnect African-Americans with camping and other outdoor activities.

After spending the weekend in a “KOA Lodge,” Mapp said in a news release that the experience was nothing like roughing it in a tent and sleeping bag. But it had all the other attributes of an outdoor trip – a beautiful outdoor setting within earshot of La Selva Beach and plenty of outdoor activities, including swimming, a climbing wall, horseshoes and bicycle rentals. Her rental unit also had its own deck, barbecue, picnic table and fire pit – a perfect place to roast s’mores after a full day’s activities.

With so much comfort and easy access to outdoor activities, it’s no wonder KOA and other campgrounds across the country are installing more and more park model cabin rentals. “With these, you can experience a campground without a tent or an RV,” Mapp said.

Mapp notes that KOA offers the full range of camping opportunities, including tent sites, RV sites as well as rustic cabins that are simply a place to sleep. She was impressed by the diversity of the campers who stayed at KOA when she was there.

Her camping neighbors included an eclectic mixture of Bay Area weekenders and travelers from Europe who were taking a breather at KOA in between visits to Monterey and San Francisco, Calif., and Yosemite and other national parks.

By the time Mapp arrived home late Sunday afternoon, she realized how easy it was to have a weekend getaway with her family by visiting a nearby campground and staying in a park model cabin.

“I realized there was no gear to put away; no layers of dirt to wash off our bodies, and I felt rested and energized for Monday,” she said.

To learn more about Mapp and her outdoor travels across California and the West, visit www.OutdoorAfro.com.

The website, which Mapp started three years ago, encourages African Americans across the country to network with one another to plan outdoor recreation activities together, such as hiking, camping, biking, climbing and river rafting.

Mapp, in fact, has gained so much notoriety for her website, that she is frequently invited by the White House to share her ideas on ways to better engage African-Americans in healthy activities in the Great Outdoors.

KOA sponsored Mapp’s park model camping trip in cooperation with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which is supporting Mapp’s efforts to actively promote camping and other outdoor recreation activities in the African-American community.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com. For more information on the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and its efforts to increase the levels of African American participation in camping and RVing, please contact Debbie Sipe at (530) 885-1624 and visit www.Camp-California.com.

 

 

Rue Mapp Blogs About KOA Kamping Experience

April 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp with children

Editor’s Note: Oakland, Calif., resident Rue Mapp founded OutdoorAfro.com to promote camping among African-Americans. She maintains a website and posts stories about her camping adventures. Here is the introduction to her latest post.

Awesome! Fabulous! Wonderful!

These are some of the words that come to mind after such a terrific weekend at California’s Central Coast near Santa Cruz camping with KOA with my Arwen and Billy, plus family friend Milan Martin. KOA is a private campground franchise with over 475 locations around the country. As part of our partnership with Camp California to demonstrate the various ways families can choose to camp, we decided to try a KOA for our third RV experience.

Unique about KOA are the many options to experience camping. You can sleep under the stars in a tent, pull up in an RV, or stay in a cabin or lodge. Some KOA sites offer novel arrangements such as the iconic Airstream, a Tree House or a Caboose! In addition to the sleeping options, there are many recreational activities available on site, such as swimming, mini golf, banana bikes, a climbing wall, playground, horseshoes, basketball, volleyball, and outdoor movies during peak season.

Click here to read the entire blog.

Rue Mapp to Camp in Park Model This Weekend

April 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp has spent many nights camping in tents and sleeping bags with her three children.

But when the Oakland, Calif., family visits the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA in La Selva Beach this weekend, they’re going to try something new – two nights in a cozy park model cabin, known as a “lodge” in KOA parlance, according to a news release.

“Park model cabins are the newest additions at many campgrounds across the country, so we wanted to check them out for ourselves,” said Mapp, who is becoming increasingly well known for her pioneering work to reconnect the African-American community with camping and other outdoor recreation activities through OutdoorAfro.com.

The website, which Mapp started three years ago, encourages African-Americans across the country to network with one another to plan outdoor recreation activities together, such as hiking, camping, biking, climbing and river rafting.

Mapp, in fact, has gained so much notoriety for her website, that she is frequently invited by the White House to share her ideas on ways to better engage African-Americans in healthy activities in the Great Outdoors.

Two years ago, the White House invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities.

This year, the White House invited Mapp to attend the National Parks Centennial and to assist the Department of Interior with her input on ways to engage African-American families in outdoor recreation.

“I understand how families can improve their physical and emotional well-being through camping and other activities in nature,” Mapp said, adding that the cabins that KOA and other campgrounds now provide are important because these rental accommodations makes it possible for people who don’t have camping equipment or RVs to participate in the camping experience.”

Mapp plans to shoot video, blog and tweet about her experiences camping this weekend.

One of the new Kamping Lodge with loft units at the Santa Cruz/Monterey KOA.

The Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA is within earshot of the ocean, and visitors typically spend much of their time walking along the beach and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature near the campground.

And even though Mapp and her family will stay in the relative comfort of a KOA Lodge, complete with their own kitchen and bathroom, they’ll still be able to barbecue and roast s’mores over an open campfire.

“My kids and I can’t wait to get there,” she said.

KOA is sponsoring Mapp’s trip in cooperation with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), which is supporting Mapp’s efforts to actively promote camping and other outdoor recreation activities in the African American community.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com. For more information on the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and its efforts to increase the levels of African American participation in camping and RVing, please contact Debbie Sipe at (530) 885-1624 and visit www.Camp-California.com.

 

Mapp Expounds on Getting Started in Camping

February 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to childhood memories, people often talk about the special times they had camping with family and friends, of sleeping under the stars, of roasting marshmallows on a campfire and enjoying the sites and sounds of nature.

But what do you do if you’ve never camped before and would like to give it a try?

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t.

Even though camping remains America’s most affordable vacation option, only 15 percent of Americans camped in 2010, according to a national survey by The Outdoor Foundation, the Coleman Co. and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).

But while planning a camping trip may sound intimidating at first, it’s easy to do if you take it in steps, says Rue Mapp, a mom of three and longtime camping enthusiast who founded OutdoorAfro.com, a social media website that helps connect African-Americans with the Great Outdoors.

In a news release, she explained, “I think the first thing to do is ask yourself, ‘What is it you like to do?’ ‘What does your family like to do?’ We have to model our camping experiences off of what we really care about. For some, that may mean camping in a tent. For others, renting an RV or staying in a cabin.”

Once you figure out what kind of camping trip you’d like to do, whether it’s rustic or luxurious or somewhere in between, think about where you’d like to go and what you’d like to see.

And give some thought to what kinds of activities you’d like to do while you camp. Most people go hiking, climbing or mountain biking when they camp. Others like to go fishing, tubing, white water rafting or horseback riding. Still others like to go on nature walks or explore their passion for photography.

“If you have small children,” Mapp said, “chances are you will want to go to a campground that has activities that are suitable for small children,” Mapp said, adding, “There are campgrounds that can accommodate any recreational interest you have. Some even have ropes courses and other challenging on-site activities.”

With two elementary-school aged children and a teenager Mapp regularly takes camping trips that include lots of activities, such as hiking and water-related activities.

Growing Camping Experiences

Last fall, she camped at Ponderosa RV Resort in Lotus in California’s Sierra foothills, and took her kids white water rafting on the South Fork of the American River. They even tried their hands panning for gold.

More recently, she took a Class C motorhome rental from El Monte RV and camped at Big Sur Campground and Cabins. This April, she plans to take her family to the Santa Cruz KOA, where they plan to stay in a park model cabin rental while they explore the neighboring redwoods and take part in numerous organized activities at the campground.

So where does Mapp find places to camp?

“There are scores of campgrounds on Camp-California.com,” she said. “They have already done the research on campgrounds in every region of California, so it’s easy to find campgrounds that offer swimming, rafting, hiking and other outdoor activities. Some campgrounds even offer yurts, teepees, historic train cars and covered wagons that you can rent for the night.”

Other helpful websites include www.GoCampingAmerica.com and www. Recreation.gov.

Of course, all of this sounds great. But what if you don’t have the money to invest in camping equipment, like tents and sleeping bags?

“No worries,” Mapp said. “Camping gear is not something that’s used every weekend. Ask your friends or co-workers who camp if you could borrow their equipment for a weekend to give camping a try. And if you’re not comfortable doing that, outdoor equipment retailers offer camping equipment for rent at very affordable prices, so you don’t have to make a big investment to get started.”

Many campgrounds already have furnished tents set up and ready for use. At the Ventura KOA, you can even rent a furnished teepee.

But once you have your sleeping strategy figured out, make sure your camping trip includes good food. “Bring the foods you like to eat at home,” Mapp says. “Don’t feel that just because you’re camping you need to eat granola. If you like soul food, bring it! And bring food that’s easy to prepare. Comfort foods can really enrich the experience. For instance, I boil my pastas before going on camping trips. I also make blocks of chili and freeze it. That way, it’s just a matter of heating it up for mealtime.”

Perhaps most important of all, take it slow when you camp.

“Don’t invest a lot of money up front in equipment you may never use,” Mapp said. “Try out different types of camping – tent camping, camping in cabins and RV camping first, and then decide what kind of camping is right for you and your family.”

And if you like to mix it up, that’s fine. Campgrounds are increasingly accommodating people who don’t have their own equipment. All you have to do is bring your food and your sense of adventure.

For more information, visit www.outdoorafro.com and www.Camp-California.com.

Rue Mapp on Camping: Best Way to Connect with Her Kids

February 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp of Oakland, Calif., knows from personal experience that camping can be the most affordable way to spend a week or even a weekend away from home.

But that’s not why she does it, according to a news release.

“I do it because it’s the best way I’ve found to connect with my kids,” she said, adding, “When was the last time you had a conversation with your children that wasn’t interrupted by a phone call or text message?”

But by taking her children to remote places, often in areas with little or no cellphone coverage, Mapp finds she can hold lengthy conversations with her children without interruptions from text messages or phone calls.

And when she involves her children in outdoor activities, such as hiking or swimming or climbing over boulders, everyday tensions, worries about school or work, disappear, and family can connect with each in ways they can never achieve at home.

“Being in nature, we unplug,” Mapp says. “We’re able to connect and interact with each other in ways we don’t get to a chance to do in our busy, daily lives. We can take our time. We can watch a sunset together, we can feel the warmth of a campfire and share a sense of wonder with one another as we look at the night sky.”

Camping and being in nature is also a wonderful way to find peace.

“There’s nothing like sitting on the edge of a riverbank and listening to the sound of the water moving over the rocks,” Mapp said, “or hearing the wind blow through the trees while squirrels, birds and chipmunks come out to greet us.”

Mapp also finds that these precious moments of quality family time with her children or peace in nature are moments she can take back home with her after the camping trip has ended.

“I find that in my daily life, I can call up those images, those experiences of peace, and it can really help to inform my daily life in a very positive and calming way.”

Mapp’s best childhood memories, in fact, are camping trips. She still vividly remembers a leadership development camping trip she took 20-something years ago when she was a teenager.

“I felt this incredible feeling of independence,” she said. “It was the first time in my life that I could experience the world on my own terms. It helped give me a sense of who I am.”

Camping, of course, is also a gateway to many healthy outdoor activities that can help improve everyone’s health.

“We’re facing a crisis of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in this country, particularly in the African-American community,” Mapp said.

And while camping in itself won’t cure these ills, it is a powerful way for people to decompress and get in tune with their minds and bodies in ways they can never achieve back home.

“Camping, and all of the activities that go with it, is something you can never replicate in a gym,” Mapp said. “A treadmill or stairmaster is never going to be a replacement for a brisk hike and the benefits you get for your mind and body.

Camping and being in nature also tends to bring out the best in people, she said. “You go to any campground,” she said, “and it’s like going back in time. People are friendly. They talk to each other and interact with one another in ways they don’t do even in their own neighborhoods back home. You see random acts of kindness we don’t even see enough closer to home.”

Mapp remembers pulling into a campground late one night and having trouble getting her tent set up. “I’ll never forget, there was a couple that came out of their tent and helped us get our tent set up. They gave us a hand. That small act of kindness was such a neat experience.”

Camping, in sum, is not only a way to improve one’s health and family relationships. “It also can be a way to restore your faith in humanity,” Mapp said.

Click here to read an earlier story at www.woodallscm.com about Rue Mapp. Click here to access her blog.

OutdoorAfro.com Founder Plans Trip to Big Sur

October 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp knew it wouldn’t be too hard to develop a following when she launched OutdoorAfro.com, the social media website that connects African Americans with the Great Outdoors and with each other.

After all, there isn’t any other place on the Internet where African Americans who like outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, bicycling, rock climbing and river rafting can meet one another and find out about upcoming outdoor adventures with other African Americans, according to a news release.

What Mapp didn’t expect was the continuing surge in website traffic and phone calls that have taken place since she publicized an RV trip with her family to Ponderosa Resort in the Sierra Nevada foothill community of Lotus two months ago.

“I’m getting people following me everywhere,” said Mapp, a 40-year-old Oakland resident. “I’m getting lots of traction in California because that’s where I’m from. But I’m also getting hits in New York, Seattle and Atlanta.”

Mapp even got a phone call recently from an elderly Atlanta woman with a trailer, asking if she had any advice on how she could find other African Americans to go RVing with. Mapp did a quick Web search and put her in touch with a regional coordinator from the National African American RVers Association.

“These are the kinds of connections I’m trying to help people make,” Mapp said, adding that the whole point of OutdoorAfro.com is to make camping and the enjoyment of nature accessible and relevant to the lives of African Americans, who typically are rarely seen in outdoor activities.

Mapp’s next trip will be Oct. 21-23 in a rental RV from El Monte RV. She’ll head down Route 1, explore the coast, and camp overnight at Big Sur Campground and Cabins, which will serve as a base camp for Mapp and her family as they explore the many hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic coastline in the Big Sur area.

Mapp said she plans to shoot video, tweet and blog about her trip so that the roughly 7,000 African American members of OutdoorAfro.com can continue to follow her and share in her family’s experiences as they explore scenic outdoor destinations across California.

CampCalifornia.com and Big Sur Campground and Cabins are co-sponsoring her trip along with El Monte RV, which is supplying an RV for Mapp’s use. Mapp’s next trip will take place later this winter in the Southern California desert.

About OutdoorAfro.com

Since she founded OutdoorAfro.com two years ago, Mapp has gained significant attention – both in government and in the business community.

Last year, the White House invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities. For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com.

About Camp-California.com and its partners

Camp-California.com, the travel planning website of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, has taken an interest in Mapp’s efforts and plans to work with her in the coming months to actively promote camping and RVing in the African American community.

For more information on Camp-California.com and its efforts to increase the levels of African American participation in camping and RVing, please contact Meaghan Bertram at (510) 541-4955 or email her at meaghan.Bertram@gmail.com.

To learn more about Big Sur Campground and Cabins, please visit www.bigsurcamp.com or call (831) 667-2322.

El Monte RV can be reached at (888) 337-2214 and at www.elmonterv.com.

Mapp Blogs About Rafting on Recent Camping Trip

August 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro.com, writes about the white water rafting adventure she and her son, Seth, experienced on their recent weekend camping trip in Northern California made possible by Camp-California Marketing and others.

To read her latest blog, click here.

Outdoor Afro Creator Plans Sierra Nevada Campout

August 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp, creator of the OutdoorAfro website, takes to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada when she travels with her nephew and three children for a three-day camping trip Aug. 12-14 at Ponderosa Resort in Lotus, Calif.

Camp-California.com and Ponderosa Resort are co-sponsoring her trip along with Auburn-based American River Sales and Rentals, which is supplying a teardrop trailer for Mapp’s use.

They are equally eager to learn of her experiences, and learn how they can expand their collective efforts to reach out to the African-American community and get them involved in the Great Outdoors, according to a story in the current edition of “Wednesday Morning Coffee Talk & Updates.”

Mapp plans to do live tweeting, blogging and videotaping of her trip so that the roughly 7,000 African-American members of OutdoorAfro.com can follow her and share in her experiences.

“This will be a deliberate application of social media to talk about a real experience and how the camping and RV industries can use social media to get African Americans and others involved in the various outdoor opportunities that are available,” Mapp said.

Website Reconnects African-Americans to the Outdoors

July 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro.com

When was the last time you saw African-Americans hiking, skiing or camping in a tent or RV?

They are out there, but not in the numbers that reflect their presence in the U.S. population, according to a news release.

Why is that?

And how can involvement in outdoor activities enhance the lives of African-Americans?

These are some of the questions Rue Mapp of Oakland, Calif., is exploring through OutdoorAfro.com, a website she founded to reconnect African-Americans with the great outdoors.

OutdoorAfro.com is filled with stories, photos, event listings and other resources that educate, motivate and inspire African-Americans in the Bay Area and across the country to enjoy the Great Outdoors with their families, friends and with others they meet in this unique online community.

Here you’ll find photos, videos and blog postings of African-Africans who enjoy bicycling, hiking, camping, birdwatching and outdoor photography as well as skiing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and scuba diving.

Read through the discussion groups, blog postings and event calendar and you’ll quickly discover there are many African-Americans across the country who are eager to interact in nature with other African Americans. The challenge, of course, is to find them. But that’s where OutdoorAfro.com can help.

Here you’ll meet people like Winston Walker, an African-American hiking enthusiast from Colorado who frequently leads hikes to scenic destinations across the country.

Or people like Clifton Sorrel, who writes a blog called “Trekking for Life.” Or people like Jeremy Thomas, an African-American bicycling enthusiast who teaches at an environmental school in Portland, Ore.

Some of OutdoorAfro members even exchange healthy recipes with one another and share photos, videos and descriptions of their trips to scenic destinations as diverse as Belize and Denali National Park in Alaska.

“We’re like a platform where people can be visible to each other,” Mapp said.

Indeed. Since it was founded two years ago, more than 7,000 African-Americans have become active members of OutdoorAfro.com, and the numbers are growing.

All of them are passionate about the outdoors and are eager to find other African Americans to enjoy activities with.

Various members and groups with organized activities are also posting information on the site, which is unique in helping African Americans find outdoor activities with other African-Americans.

“Many of them are just like me,” said Mapp, who grew up in Oakland but spent weekends with her foster parents on a ranch in Northern California where she cultivated a passion for natural spaces, farming and learned how to hunt and fish.

In her youth, Mapp was involved in Girl Scouts and Outward Bound, which broadened her outdoor experiences in camping, mountaineering, rock climbing and road bicycling. But while she always enjoyed these endeavors, she seldom saw other African-Americans participating in these kinds of activities, a cultural phenomenon that has troubled her to this day. “I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me,” she said.

In fact, when a friend asked her a few years ago what she would do if she had all the money in the world, she said she would use social media to connect African-Americans to the Great Outdoors. And herein lay the roots of OutdoorAfro.com.

So how did African Americans lose their connection with the outdoors?

It’s a tough question, but Mapp is gradually finding some answers.

“African-Americans are not necessarily disconnected, but somehow we’ve lost touch with something that’s already a part of us,” she said. “Many of us have grown up or lived in close contact with the land, such as in food and farming activities. So a relationship with the land was a natural thing for us.”

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reached out to the nation's African-American population in recent advertising. The photo shoot is shown here.

Many African-Americans, however, have not developed an interest in outdoor recreation. There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

“The biggest reason for non-engagement is time,” Mapp said. “People don’t have a good sense of how much or how little time is really required to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. But beyond this, African-Americans often don’t know what groups to join or how to find other African-Americans to enjoy these activities with.”

But by serving as a social networking site for African-Americans with an interest in the outdoors, OutdoorAfro.com can move and inspire people to get involved.

“It’s imperative, not merely for the sake of enjoying the beauty of nature, but for our own health,” Mapp said. “Right now, we’re facing 30% obesity among African-American youth. In Oakland, it’s closer to 50%. So we’re looking now at a generation with lower life expectancy than their parents because they’re starting off on the wrong foot.”

Mapp concedes that efforts to reconnect African-Americans with the Great Outdoors will take time. But the benefits will be worth the effort.

“In my lifetime,” she said, “I’d like to see African-Americans enjoying the outdoors freely without inhibition and without spectacle and to be able to do so in a way where it’s no big deal to see African-Americans involved in recreational activities outdoors.”

Mapp’s efforts are already starting to generate attention – both in government and in the business community.

Last year, President Obama invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities.

The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) has also taken an interest in Mapp’s efforts, and, working with Auburn-based American River Sales and Rentals, has arranged to provide her with a free teardrop trailer rental for a mid-August camping trip to Ponderosa Ranch RV Resort, a Thousand Trails park on the South Fork of the American River in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Mapp, who is expected to visit Ponderosa Ranch RV Resort Aug. 12-14 with her three children, plans to share blog postings about the trip and will also be available for media interviews.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com. For more information on the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and its efforts to increase the levels of African American participation in camping and RVing, please contact Debbie Sipe at (530) 885-1624 or email her at Debbie@calarvc.com.

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