Advancing Equitable Access to the Outdoors with Vámonos Outside

Wesley Heredia (he/him/el) and Eduardo Romero (he/him/el) are the faces of Vámonos Outside, a local non-profit, that works to create equitable access to Central Oregon’s outdoors.

Fun facts about Wes and Eduardo:

  • Wes has been a field instructor for Outward Bound in Colorado, California, and Oregon. He’s a skilled outdoor guide that enjoys instructing new rock climbers and snowboarders. During the winter, you’ll find him on Mt. Bachelor giving snowboarding lessons.
  • Eduardo was born and raised in Bend. He completed Central Oregon Community College’s Outdoor Leadership Program before joining Vámonos Outside and is a photographer with a mission to diversify media. He’s also a Haven Ambassador.

Below, Wes and Eduardo share what it means to diversify the outdoors, some of their favorite ways to experience the outdoors, and how members can support Vámonos Outside.

Vámonos Outside and The Haven

Wes: I have been the program director of VO since December 2021. I do a lot of “everything” that it takes to run a nonprofit. Of course, I have a lot of help and mentorship. I have a few side hustles, or as I like to call them, side passions. I am a snowboarding instructor at Mt. Bachelor, a climbing guide with Chockstone Climbing Guides out of Smith Rock and a mountaineering guide with Climbers of Color in Seattle. I call myself an outdoor educator. 

[The Haven] has given me the feeling that I am a professional working in the non-profit sector and has created many relationships that I use in my work with VO.

Eduardo: Primarily, I work at Vámonos Outside (VO). I also work as a photographer! I love taking pictures of people and it’s my mission to diversify media. The Haven has helped me by supporting my photography and giving me a space where I can work on it and meet new people in the same profession.

Two men wearing white sweatshirts and ball caps stand outside Bend Rock Gym building while giving thumbs pu
Eduardo Romero (left) and Wesley Heredia (right)

Diversity in the Outdoors

Wes: To diversify the outdoors, at least in the context of outdoor recreation, is important because it would mean that people who have not had any or as much access [to outdoor recreation] are now able to gain the physical, psychological and emotional benefits that are inherent when one is in nature. So when we see diverse folks in the outdoors, we are actually seeing healthier humans and stronger communities. 

Barriers are everywhere and vastly differ depending on what communities we are talking about and where those communities exist. Not one solution can solve it all. When it comes to our Latinx community here in Bend, you can narrow it down to socio-economic factors and cultural norms. So people don’t have the extra income to spend on the traditional outdoor sports we all love to do.

And, if they do recreate outside, they will be engaging in activities that they are familiar with like BBQ and games, soccer, or gardening. Those who want to engage in the traditional outdoor sports we see here in CO, don’t know about it, don’t have the extra income to spend on non-immediate things, or don’t identify enough with the outdoor sports culture to pursue it. 

To put it simply, there are not enough opportunities that are affordable and inviting that would help these folks engage in outdoor recreation activities. At the same time, there are even fewer examples of representation of these folks when it comes to outdoor recreation which is important to feel the cultural connection to those activities. To tackle the barriers, people must understand the communities first. 

Support and Funding for Vámonos Outside

Wes: We receive a majority of our funding from grants of all sizes, local, regional and national. We also are slowly trying to establish fundraising events that we hope to continue in years to come.

However, we have been extremely appreciative of the donations we have received from local businesses and community members. If a community member wants to help, they can donate funds, donate equipment when we need it, and attend our events when we have them. Also, a good shoutout and saying “hi” when we are in the community can also go a long way. VO is run by Latinx folks but we are all part of the solution when it comes to diversifying the outdoors. 

Getting Outside

Wes: My Bend spots include the climbing gyms and chilling next to the river. Archie Briggs Canyon is my spot to go for a run. I love to enjoy the outdoors in so many ways: snowboarding, climbing, and as of recently, rafting. I also love to cook outdoors with good company.

Eduardo: My favorite Bend sport is definitely rock climbing. I first started climbing in 2014 and since then have been in love with it. I’ve climbed in many different areas like Utah, Texas, Idaho, Mexico, and many more areas. I also participate in mountain biking, snowboarding, canoeing and many other sports. 

Man in green jacket holds a phone to take a selfie of himself and three other people on a mountain wearing ski gear, with pine trees in the background.

Upcoming Vámonos Outside events

Monthly BIPOC Climbing Nights at Bend Rock Gym and The Circuit Bouldering Gym

  • Last Thursday of every month at The Circuit
  • Second Friday of every month at Bend Rock Gym

2022 Tierra Adventuras

  • Vámonos Outside is partnering with Cogwild to host a 6-week mountain biking program for Latinx/BIPOC teenagers from Bend High School and Caldera High School.
  • VO and Cogwild will be providing bike and helmet rentals, six mountain biking clinics, snacks, and mentorship by BIPOC coaches.

Reel Rock 16 Film Festival at Tower Theatre

  • Presented by Mountain Supply, Reel Rock 16 features four new climbing films.
  • The festival is scheduled for May 4 and proceeds will benefit Vámonos Outside and Bend Endurance Academy.

Stay Connected

  • Follow Vámonos Outside on Instagram and Facebook for updates and details about future events. 

Visit Vámonos Outside for tips on places to visit and outdoor activities in Central Oregon.

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