Some see Rue Mapp as a 21st century John Muir of the African American community.
A vocal outdoor enthusiast whose ideas are frequently sought by the White House, Mapp understands how nature can nurture not only our physical, but emotional wellbeing.
An Oakland, Calif.-based mother of three, Mapp also knows that families that engage in healthy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming and camping can strengthen their relationships, while combating diabetes and other health problems that result from sedentary lifestyles dominated by computers and other electronic devices.
“Everyone talks about the healthcare crisis facing this country, a crisis that is particularly acute in the African American community. But engagement in the Great Outdoors is something anyone can right now to improve their physical and emotional health. They just have to get off the couch and do it.”
Unfortunately, black Americans are perceived to have little connection with the Great Outdoors. “How often do you see black people hiking in Yosemite, or sitting around a campfire in a family campground? Not enough.”
But Mapp is working to change that.
Through her website, OutdoorAfro.com, Mapp is starting a movement to get black America into the Great Outdoors. She’s doing this by networking African Africans who already have an interest in hiking or biking or camping or other activities with other African Americans with similar interests.
The idea, she said, is to encourage African Americans to network with each other and become more involved with outdoors. OutdoorAfro.com is not only a forum to discuss the need for outdoor engagement, but a planning tool for organizing outings.
“It’s as if she’s creating a black Sierra Club,” said Danielle Lee, a colleague of Mapp who has watched OutdoorAfro grow from an obscure website to one that is frequently accessed by people across the country.
Mapp has also partnered with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) and Camp-California.com, which is helping her publicize her efforts in California and across the country.
But between running OutdoorAfro.com and making trips to Washington D.C. to provide input on initiatives ranging from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to providing ideas to the Department of Interior on ways to engage African American families in outdoor recreation, Mapp realizes she needs more soldiers to fight alongside her.
“I can’t do all of this myself,” she said.
So Mapp has taken the next logical step: She has recruited a dozen people like her who share her passion for the outdoors. But these folks are not just advocates. They will also organize outdoor activities across the country, from day hikes to overnight camping trips.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before by the black community, at least nothing on this scale,” Mapp said.
Her “team leaders” will initially organize trips on a quarterly basis. But the effort could grow beyond that.
“I am blessed to have found a group of like-minded people who can help me literally move African Americans into the outdoors in greater numbers.”
Rue Mapp has spent many nights camping in tents and sleeping bags with her three children. But, according to a press release, when the Oakland family visit the Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA in La Selva Beach this weekend, they’re going to try something new – two nights in a cozy park model cabin, known as a “lodge” in KOA parlance.
“Park model cabins are the newest additions at many campgrounds across the country, so we wanted to check them out for ourselves,” said Mapp, who is becoming increasingly well known for her pioneering work to reconnect the African American community with camping and other outdoor recreation activities through OutdoorAfro.com.
The website, which Mapp started three years ago, encourages African Americans across the country to network with one another to plan outdoor recreation activities together, such as hiking, camping, biking, climbing and river rafting.
Mapp, in fact, has gained so much notoriety for her website, that she is frequently invited by the White House to share her ideas on ways to better engage African Americans in healthy activities in the Great Outdoors.
Two years ago, the White House invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities.
This year, the White House invited Mapp to attend the National Parks Centennial and to assist the Department of Interior with her input on ways to engage African American families in outdoor recreation.
“I understand how families can improve their physical and emotional well-being through camping and other activities in nature,” Mapp said, adding that the cabins that KOA and other campgrounds now provide are important because these rental accommodations makes it possible for people who don’t have camping equipment or RVs to participate in the camping experience.”
Mapp plans to shoot video, blog and tweet about her experiences camping this weekend.
KOA is sponsoring Mapp’s trip in cooperation with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), which is supporting Mapp’s efforts to actively promote camping and other outdoor recreation activities in the African American community.
For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rue Mapp knew it wouldn’t be too hard to develop a following when she launched OutdoorAfro.com, the social media website that connects African Americans with the Great Outdoors and with each other.
According to a press release from Camp-California.com, there isn’t any other place on the Internet where African Americans who like outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, bicycling, rock climbing and river rafting can meet one another and find out about upcoming outdoor adventures with other African Americans.
What Mapp didn’t expect was the continuing surge in website traffic and phone calls that have taken place since she publicized an RV trip with her family to Ponderosa Resort in the Sierra Nevada foothill community of Lotus two months ago.
“I’m getting people following me everywhere,” said Mapp, a 40-year-old Oakland resident. “I’m getting lots of traction in California because that’s where I’m from. But I’m also getting hits in New York, Seattle and Atlanta.”
Mapp even got a phone call recently from an elderly Atlanta woman with a trailer, asking if she had any advice on how she could find other African Americans to go RVing. Mapp did a quick web search and put her in touch with a regional coordinator from the National African American RVers Association.
“These are the kinds of connections I’m trying to help people make,” Mapp said, adding that the whole point of OutdoorAfro.com is to make camping and the enjoyment of nature accessible and relevant to the lives of African Americans.
Mapp’s next trip will be Oct. 21-23 in a rental RV from El Monte RV. She’ll head down Route 1, explore the coast, and camp overnight at Big Sur Campground and Cabins, which will serve as a base camp for Mapp and her family as they explore the many hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic coastline in the area.
Mapp said she plans to shoot video, tweet and blog about her trip so that the roughly 7,000 African American members of OutdoorAfro.com can continue to follow her and share in her family’s experiences as they explore scenic outdoor destinations across California.
CampCalifornia.com and Big Sur Campground and Cabins are co-sponsoring her trip along with El Monte RV, which is supplying an RV for Mapp’s use. Mapp’s next trip will take place later this winter in the Southern California desert.
Since she launched OutdoorAfro.com two years ago, Rue Mapp has been working tirelessly to reconnect African Americans with the Great Outdoors.
According to a press release, her website is filled with stories, photos, videos and event listings that enable African Americans to network with each other for hiking, bicycling, camping, river rafting, rock climbing and other activities in nature.
Mapp will take her efforts a step further Aug. 12-14 when she travels to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with her nephew and three children for a three-day camping trip in a teardrop RV at Ponderosa Resort in Lotus.
Mapp said that camping and RVing are outdoor activities that, for a variety of reasons, haven’t yet taken hold in the African American community. She is hoping to change that ¬ and let people know what they’re missing.
“I’m not an outsider talking about these things because I’ve always enjoyed camping,” she said. “But I do want to spread the message that these kinds of activities are possible for African Americans in California and across the country.”
To hammer home her point, Mapp plans to do live tweeting, blogging and videotaping of her trip so that the roughly 7,000 African American members of OutdoorAfro.com can follow her and share in her experiences.
The press release stated that Camp-California and Ponderosa Resort (RVonTheGo.com) are co-sponsoring her trip along with Auburn-based American River Sales and Rentals, which is supplying the teardrop trailer for Mapp’s use.
“This will be a deliberate application of social media to talk about a real experience and how the camping and RV industries can use social media to get African Americans and others involved in the various outdoor opportunities that are available,” Mapp said.
Ponderosa Resort, for its part, is eager to gain exposure among a market demographic that knows little about the opportunities available to them.
“Rue’s trip will help expose us to a new demographic, for sure,” said Dominic Pugliese, manager of Ponderosa Resort, a scenic, 135-site campground with over 2,000 feet of frontage along the American River. Many of the park’s campsites and rental cabins are located on the river.