By Kathy Chouteau
Community members heading out to East Bay Regional Parks Sat., June 19 will have their park entry and some other fees waived as part of a Park District partnership with Outdoor Afro to commemorate Juneteenth. On that day in June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 250,000 enslaved black Americans in Texas were informed of their freedom.
Park District fees that will be waived on Juneteenth include park entrance, parking, dogs, horses, boat launching and fishing, according to district officials. The fee waiver won’t apply to swimming, camping and reservable picnic facilities (due to COVID-19 capacity restrictions), district concessions—such as the Tilden Merry-Go-Round and Redwood Valley Railway steam train, among others—and state fees. Fishing licenses and watercraft inspections for invasive mussels are among the state fees that won’t be waived Saturday.
The Park District’s partner, Outdoor Afro—a nonprofit that empowers black connections and leadership in nature—is encouraging people nationwide to reflect on what freedom means in America by spending 2.5 hours in nature so as to recognize the 2.5 years of freedom that were denied to so many people.
“We are grateful for the Park District offering this free day in the parks,” stated Rue Mapp, founder & CEO of Outdoor Afro. “We encourage all to connect with the healing power of nature on this day and every day.”
According to the Park District officials, it has “a long-standing commitment to diversity and ensuring safe and welcoming outdoor spaces for black, brown, indigenous and people of color.” One example the Park District points to regarding its diversity efforts is the naming of the new regional park at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park–Home of the Port Chicago 50” to honor the history and social justice significance of the deadly Port Chicago explosion.
Other efforts, by the Regional Parks Foundation in support of the Park District, encompass fundraising for universal access and an initiative to provide 750 free memberships to underserved black, brown, indigenous and people of color.
Per the Park District, it includes nearly 125,000 acres in 73 parks, including over 1,250 miles of trails and 55 miles of shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Learn more here.