Sarah Knapp began OutdoorFest in 2013 with the vision of connecting city slickers to the great outdoors, sustainably. She’s brought together hundreds of New Yorkers through Festivals, “Mappy Hours” and online resources like the Get Outside Guide. Most recently, she spearheaded the creation of a guide to visiting National Parks without a car. We spoke with Sarah about her business, the effects of carbon emissions on the planet, the Parks guide, and her love of nature.
You’re the founder of OutdoorFest. Tell me about your company philosophy, events and goals.
OutdoorFest started because of the lack of connection and community around the outdoors I saw in New York City. Our goal is to connect urban dwellers (in NYC and beyond) to outdoor adventure resources and encourage active, adventurous lifestyles.
“In New York, there are thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who use our city both as a base camp for great exploration and as a playground for local adventure. Here, we have one of the highest concentrations of outdoor enthusiasts in the world and vibrant communities of surfers, climbers, ultra runners, kayakers, slackliners and more. Yet, it is undeniably difficult to connect with these communities. Many of our friends are not interested in the outdoors and the mainstream culture isn’t focused on our sports. What if there was a way to advocate for and strengthen the outdoor community at the same time?
I started OutdoorFest because I believe there is…” — Sarah Knapp
OutdoorFest recently acquired offMetro. What is offMetro? What is the mission of the organization?
offMetro is a green travel resource for urban dwellers wanting to get out of town. We focus on how to lighten our footprint when we travel and work to find great getaways that can be accessed with as little personal vehicle use as possible.
What do carbon emissions do to the environment? How can humans offset these damaging effects?
Carbon dioxide, which surpassed 400ppm this September, is one of the main greenhouse gases that is contributing to the rising temperatures of earth’s surface. According to the EPA, just using a typical passenger vehicle annually leads to emissions of about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The EPA also has a calculator to help individuals assess their own carbon footprint.
We generally aren’t able to track the number of carbon emissions that cars emit at our National Parks per year, but instead focus on sharing the core message that a car is not necessary to enjoy high quality travel. I think if people can read our stories and itineraries and start thinking about alternative transportation options instead of immediately resorting to a car, we’ll continue to make an impact.
Tell me about the offMetro National Parks / public transportation project. What is the guide and why do you think it’s important?
This October, we created The Guide to Getting to National Parks without the use of a personal vehicle. The idea came from our own interests and challenges in visiting and covering the National Parks, especially as this year is the National Park Service’s centennial. We couldn’t find one central resource, or even consistent information from parks specific websites that could lead us to the bus schedules, station stops, or other creative ways of traveling. Currently, the default mode of traveling to National Parks is by automobile, and we hope by making it easier to find the information, more people will opt to use public, people-powered, and alternative modes of transportation.
Traffic congestion and idling cars is increasingly becoming a problem in and around National Parks, highlighted by the Arches National Park road closure this past Memorial Day when the park and road reached capacity. There’s an inherent irony in people sitting and idling in their cars as they wait to visit National Park land.
Which parks are featured in the guide?
We chose to highlight National Park Service managed land in our guide, meaning that we not only included National Parks but also National Seashores, National Historical Parks and National Recreation Areas. We currently have 23 places included from Acadia in Maine to Zion in Utah and plan to expand the guide as more options become available.
Specifically, the guide features: Acadia National Park, Arches National Park, Assateague National Seashore, Biscayne National Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, Crater Lake National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Denali National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, Fire Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Hot Springs National Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Joshua Tree National Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park…
What’s your favorite aspect of your job? Why is preserving/spending time in nature so important to you?
Nature is vital to both our mental and physical health. For me, it’s also a core part of my identity and something that inspires me to be creative. My favorite part of my job is that I get to think about and (hopefully) help solve some of the major issues facing our cities and natural places.
Sarah Knapp is the founder of Outdoor Fest. She’s a nature-loving New Yorker with experience in the outdoor industry, urban adventuring and marketing/business strategy.
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