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Home    |   Print Edition   |   Racism in the Water: Access for All in Outdoor Recreation

Racism in the Water: Access for All in Outdoor Recreation

Sep 28, 2023

Sarah Ruth Martinez

Volume 50 (2023) - Issue 1

Racism is rampant, especially in outdoor recreational spaces. Discrimination and exclusivity have kept predominantly Black and People of Color out of blue spaces, leaving only the privileged to enjoy them. This Article chronicles the long history of the exclusion of People of Color from blue spaces. With the realization that historical racism may have impacted Black communities and People of Color, social scientists conducted studies to determine just how deep the impacts ran. Studies demonstrated several barriers to accessing or enjoying blue spaces. Deep-rooted racism was shown to have created a socially exclusive environment where Black and People of Color are often berated and unwelcome in blue spaces. Racist land-use and housing policies force Black and People of Color into areas friendly to industrial uses, resulting in widespread environmental justice issues and being far away from blue spaces. Living far away from blue spaces makes it difficult for Black and People of Color to physically access blue spaces, as parking and transportation to these areas are often lacking. A combination of all these barriers results in a striking lack of racial diversity in blue spaces. Thankfully, a couple of existing tools could prove helpful in the fight to achieve more equitable access to blue space. This Article reviews some of those tools, including the public trust doctrine, the First Amendment, Title II and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the use of zoning reform. In the end, it seems some of the tools this Article reviews can prove helpful, while others have been gutted and have little helpful value. However, recent steps, like the introduction of the Environmental Justice for All Act and a greater awareness of the role of historical racism, give a glimmer of hope for the future of equitable access to blue space.