Speaker Series

Mikah Meyer and Sangita Chari – “Championing Inclusion in the Outdoors”

Mikah Meyer National Parks and Road Trip expert,  Sangita Chari, oversees the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion for the National Park Service

February 26, 2019 | 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m

Montgomery County Regional Office Building Auditorium:   8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Adventurer Mikah Meyer is closing in on the end of a three-year journey to experience all 418 National Park Service sites. He is set to become the first person to do so in a continuous journey.  His odyssey began as a way to mark his father’s passing from cancer and honor his dad’s love of road trips.  Meyer began blogging his journey, taking audiences along with him on his trek across America’s public lands.   His journey quickly became a source of inspiration, encouraging people to live their dreams and shed an important light into the LGBT experience in the outdoors.

Similarly, the National Park Service (NPS) is on its own mission to promote inclusion in the outdoors. Sangita Chari, oversees the NPS’s Office of Relevancy, Diversity and Inclusion.  The office was formed in 2013 to address the underrepresentation of diverse racial and ethnic groups among National Park staff and visitors. Chari will share insight into the steps NPS has implemented and the agency’s future plans to ensure that the national parks remain relevant and open to all Americans.

The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

REGISTER in advance to receive a complimentary boxed lunch.

About the speakers

Mikah Meyer, National Parks and Road Trip expert, has been featured by NPR, The Today Show, the Washington Post, and over 1,500 other media outlets worldwide for his nonstop, 3-year road trip to all 418 National Park Service sites. Using the media attention to share America’s diverse public lands, Meyer has also become a leading voice in LGBT advocacy within the outdoors, noted by industry publication as an “Emerging Leader in the Outdoors Industry.” With superlatives like “Best #VanLife Instagram” from the Adventure Sports Network, “Social Media Warrior” from MTV, and “Sexy Travel Guru” from GayCities, Meyer brings a humorous and down-to-earth approach to advocacy, sharing his travels, and encouraging everyone to #LiveOutThere!

Sangita Chari, oversees the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion for the National Park Service and is responsible for facilitating the implementation of the agency’s national diversity and inclusion strategies. In this role she oversees the agencies eight employee resource groups, and manages the national dialogue program -Allies for Inclusion. Following the 2016 allegations of sexual harassment at the Grand Canyon NP, Chari coordinated the agency’s first internal harassment survey. In 2018 Chari helped found the Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers a multi-sector initiative to bring women and people of color into the conservation field and serves as the first Board Chair. Chari started in the NPS as the grants coordinator for the National NAGPRA program from 2008 to 2012. Prior to coming to the NPS, Chari spent over 15 years working in museums and non-profits as a funder, program manager, technical assistance provider, grant writer, and community organizer. Chari holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and Anthropology from American University and a Master of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida. 


View the previous presentations:

Sheema Hai and Albert Arevalo | Engaging Diverse Audiences in Parks and Outdoor Recreation
January 25, 2019 | View the presentation online

  • According to a recent National Park report, Non-Hispanic white visitors make up the largest demographic of visitors to national parks.  This trend is mirrored for parks and recreation agencies around the country as many struggle to attract a more diverse audience. The issues are deep rooted and proving difficult to crack.  This session will explore how agencies might  address this challenge.  Sheema Hai, Cultural Competence and Inclusion Advocate, and Albert Arevalo, Program Coordinator for Latino Outdoors, will examine misconceptions and stereotypes, current trends, and insights into the work being done to make outdoor recreation more inclusive.
    • Sheema Hai is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional and has a bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Parks Management from Frostburg State University.  She has worked and taught in the recreation and parks field.  Hai consults with numerous agencies and conducts training sessions at both the state and national level on topics related to diversity and cultural sensitivity.  
    • Albert Arevalo is the volunteer coordinator at Brookside Gardens.  He also serves as the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) program coordinator for Latino Outdoors, a non-profit that connects Latino communities and leadership with nature and outdoor experiences.  Arevalo is committed to increasing access of the Latino community to public lands and educating students about opportunities for careers in the environmental field.  Additionally, Arevalo is a Senior Chesapeake Region Fellow for the Environmental Leadership Program.

Jason Roberts  Building A Better Block
November 16, 2018 | View the presentation online

  • Jason Roberts’ session entitled “Building A Better Block” will share insights on how to revitalize neighborhoods as walkable, vibrant community centers.  He and his team travel to cities  around the country and abroad and work with citizens, area artists and businesses to reimagine where they live, work and play.  The session will also examine the recent work that the Better Block Foundation did right here in our area.   In October, members of the Randolph Hills Civic Association worked with the Montgomery County Parks & Planning Departments and The Better Block Foundation team to turn the Randolph Hills Shopping Center Parking lot into a community gathering place for two days.   You can learn more about the project and see the incredible transformation in this video.
    • Jason Roberts is an artist, civic activist and urban designer whose life’s work has been dedicated to the creation of healthy, vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods.  Jason has received a Champions of Change award from the US White House,  showcased in the 2012 Venice Biennale, and was listed in Planetizen’s Top 100 Most Influential Urbanists. 

David Barth The Benefits of High-Performance Public Spaces
October 3, 2018 | View the presentation online

  • Learn about creating High-Performance Public Spaces (HPPSs) which help to generate economic, environmental, and social sustainability benefits for the local community.
    • Dr. David Barth is the Principal of Barth Associates. He is a registered Landscape Architect, Certified Planner, and Certified Parks and Recreation Professional who specializes in the planning, design, and implementation of the public realm.

Scott Kratz and Jim FosterDesign: 11th St. Bridge Park and Anacostia Watershed Society
July 18, 2018 | View the presentation online

  • Could an old bridge be turned into a park? That’s what community activist Scott Kratz wants to achieve. He’s been working with Washington DC government and Building Bridges Across the River, a Ward 8-based non-profit, to transform an old freeway bridge into a park above the Anacostia River.  Jim Foster is the president of the Anacostia Watershed Society.  The Anacostia Watershed Society is committed to cleaning the water, restoring the short and honoring the heritage of the Anacostia River. The society’s goal is to help make the river fishable and swimmable by 2025.

Lieutenant Nicole Adams and Sergeant Sabrina Pirtle, Maryland-National Capital Park Police |  Safety in the Parks
June 6, 2018 | View the presentation online

  • Lt. Adams and Sgt. Pirtle will provide insight into the Maryland-National Capital Park Police operations. The park police patrol and protect more than 36,000 acres of land and 14 million visitors each year. The session will also include park safety tips and information about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies. CPTED is an approach that examines ways environmental design can deter criminal behavior.

Beth Shogren and Stacie West Parks, Placemaking and Economic Development: Using Public-Private Partnerships to Create Signature Park Experiences
April 17, 2018 | View the presentation online.

  • The panel will examine the critical role of memorable, activated parks in placemaking and economic development. How do well-located and well-designed parks and open spaces brand cities and neighborhoods? How do they contribute to the overall economic sustainability and livability of our urban areas, and make our county a desirable and enjoyable place to live and work? We will discuss successful examples of public-private partnerships in achieving these goals.

Gil Penalosa | Urban Trail and Park Systems
February 21, 2018 View the presentation online

  • Deeply passionate about cities being for all people, Gil Penalosa has guided decision makers from around the world on how to create healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities that can be enjoyed by all. Penalosa believes in parks and streets as great public spaces, and puts emphasis on sustainable mobility like walking, cycling and public transit.
    • Gil Penaosa is the founder and chair of the internationally-recognized Canadian non-profit organization 8 80 cities. He is also chair of World Urban Parks.

Peter Harnik The Need for Great Urban Parks
January 17, 2018 View the presentation online 

  • Peter Harnik is the founder of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land (TPL), which he directed until his retirement in 2016. He is the author of Urban Green, Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities and Inside City Parks, a book about the park and recreation systems of the 25 largest U.S. cities. He was co-creator of the ParkScore methodology of rating urban park systems across the nation and co-founder of City Parks Alliance. Previous to TPL, he was co-founder of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and coordinator of Environmental Action, Inc. He is currently writing a history of the rails-to-trails movement in the United States.


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Last Updated: February 12, 2019