Seattle’s Seward Park is located in one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse zip codes. It’s also home to one of the city’s chapters of the Audubon Society and is part of the national conservation organization’s push to build a constituency that is “as diverse as nature.” So what’s Seward Park Audubon’s summer camp like? KPLU environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp met with Audubon Center Director Joey Manson to learn more.
The forest at the heart of Bailey Peninsula makes up the bulk of the 300-acre park that juts into the south end of Lake Washington in Southeast Seattle. Stands of old-growth evergreen provide habitat for all kinds of birds.
“Just a minute ago, I think I just saw an osprey fly over,” says Manson. Osprey sightings have become more and more common in the park lately.
“Eagles, we’ve been seeing a little bit less, but we still have eagles that live in the park – there’s a nesting pair that live not too far from here. And we have signs of woodpeckers and owls here. So, even if you can’t see the birds here, there’s always signs of birds you can find here in the park,” he said.
Learning to spot and understand those signs on daily nature hikes is one of the activities that’s integrated into the outdoor day camps that take place here all summer, as well as school programs they offer the rest of the year. The overall goal is to create experiences that help kids bond with nature as they bond with each other. Offering those programs to more children of color is a priority for Seward Park Audubon.
“It’s strategic. For many years, if you want to call conservation a movement, the movement has been predominantly white,” Manson said. “And if you look at the demographics of where the country is headed, you have to recognize if you’re not drawing in people of color, your movement is really going to come to a standstill.”
He adds the push for diversity extends to political views as well as skin color. “Whether it’s carbon, clean air, preserving wild areas— you want these people to be thinking about and voting for these things that are going to in the long run benefit them, their family and the rest of the country,” he said.
Manson says reaching adults is harder than reaching kids, so they’re working on offering more family programs, such as Saturday hikes, when former campers can bring their parents back to the park to explore. It’s not easy. But Manson, who became the first African American appointed as an Audubon Center Director when he took the post, says it’s rewarding.
“When people of color come to me and say how proud they are to see faces that look like them and even kids … I think that’s beneficial.” He says the congratulations flooded in via email and in-person comments after he accepted the post.
“It really resonated with a lot of people … they were really proud of myself and Audubon,” he said.
Joey Manson is director of the Audubon Center at Seward Park in Seattle.