An apology to the BIPOC community

The Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in Campo, California. Photo by PCTA.

On July 17, 2020, we received an open letter from BIPOC hikers addressing our “delayed, anemic, and incorrect responses to racist posts” within the Facebook group. The letter also named “failing to address your organization’s diversity issues in staffing, executive leadership, and board of directors,” which has “contributed to perpetuating white supremacy and an outdoor culture of exclusion.” We failed to respond to the letter.

Looking back, I recognize I should have been transparent and accountable. That is why instead of simply issuing an apology, we are reposting the open letter that those in the BIPOC hiking community put so much thought and energy into writing. We made a series of mistakes, both in our actions and in the ways that we communicated those actions. We hurt BIPOC community members with our inaction. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their experiences.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a place where all people belong. Racism and discrimination are the opposite of belonging. It is vital that all users of our public lands continue to educate ourselves and our communities on how systemic racism creates barriers that can keep Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color from accessing and receiving the benefits of nature – and how the public lands system itself has historically propped up systems of oppression.

As the PCTA’s Executive Director and CEO, I acknowledge, regret, and offer our deepest apology for the PCTA’s complicity in perpetuating racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic ideas that systematically harmed individuals. While an apology is an important acknowledgment, we know that by itself, it is insufficient. We have much work to do to understand the pain and injury the PCTA has caused.

We are committed to change. We have changed our recruiting practices to attract a more diverse pool of candidates for staff and board positions. We are providing diversity, equity and inclusion training and education for our staff and board members to change our culture, our programs and be in a better position to welcome diverse voices.

We will be revising our mission, vision and values statements with community input to reflect our diversity, equity and inclusion values. And as of March 31, 2021, we have recruited new Facebook moderators for our PCTA led pages in response to the open letter. We have posted new social media rules and we’re committed to being more open, honest and straightforward about our future goals and plans. Expect an update by April 30th.

I am still learning, and I apologize to the BIPOC and other marginalized community members affected by my inaction. I believe you and you don’t deserve to be ridiculed, belittled, or harassed. We want the PCT to be a safe and welcoming experience for all.

Author: Liz Bergeron

Liz Bergeron has served as the Executive Director and CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association since 2001. When she’s not working diligently to protect, preserve and promote the PCT, you may find her taking long walks in her neighborhood, day hiking on a local trail or introducing new hikers to the PCT.