• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 30s

Young Alaskan blazing the trail for diversity in the great outdoors

By Sierra Starks Photojournalist: Rick Rysso - 2:02 PM August 25, 2016
ANCHORAGE –

A short climb from Rendezvous Peak, where the trail plateaus into ridgeline, 21-year-old Reth Duir’s reaction to Arctic Valley’s mountainous views is one of awe.

“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” Duir says, gazing at the town of Eagle River below.

It’s his first hike up the Rendezvous Peak Trail, which is peculiar considering there isn’t much Duir hasn’t done in the way of outdoor activities.

reth duir arctic youth arctic valley

But that wasn’t always the case.

“I was definitely terrified,” said Duir of his previous attitude toward the great outdoors. “I just thought of worst things that could happen. I thought about bears, I thought about drowning in the water.”

All that changed at 17 years old on a kayaking trip to Prince William Sound through Chugach Children’s Forest, a partnership led by Alaska Geographic and the U.S. Forest Service.

“Before that, I hadn’t been camping, hadn’t done any hikes or anything like that related to outdoor recreation,” said Duir, who says the trip was a watershed moment. “And that sort of took away the fear I had or any misconceptions I had about people who go outside.”

What turned fear into possibility, he says, were the people exploring next to him, who came from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

“Just really seeing the diversity within the trip, just seeing them pursue the outdoors as well made me feel even more comfortable,” said Duir, whose parents left Sudan for America as refugees.

Since then, he’s checked outdoor adventures off his list, left and right — from building a mile of trail near Spencer Glacier to pack rafting and backpacking across Alaska.

As the National Parks Service celebrates 100 years and looks forward to another centennial, the future of public lands across the nation will soon be in the hands of young people like Duir. Giving them a voice and getting them engaged have become a priority for the U.S. Department of Interior, with a group of Alaskans called the Arctic Youth Ambassadors.

Duir brings a unique perspective in his role as Arctic Youth Ambassador, along with the other college and high school students who share his title. His newfound passion for “connecting youth to the environment and how he sees that connecting to these other issues that are affecting the Arctic,” was a key factor in getting elected to the program, says Elisabeth Gustafson, who works with Duir at Alaska Geographic.

“It’s elevating Arctic youth voices about a range of topics,” Gustafson says of the ambassador program.

Duir represents not only a younger demographic but one that’s more culturally inclusive, she adds.

“One of the things Alaska Geographic recognizes is that there’s a crisis of diversity in public lands, and that the vast majority of public lands’ employees and public lands’ visitors are white,” said Gustafson. “Diverse students will tell us when they want to do something outdoors is that they don’t see it as a place for them because they don’t see people who look like them doing these things outdoors, going out in kayaks, or in REI catalogs or whatever.”

Duir now works to connect Anchorage’s diverse student population with the land he’s come to love.

His message to them comes from experience: “The outdoors are not for a certain demographic, you know. It’s for everyone to use.”

Contact Sierra Starks at sstarks@ktva.com and on Facebook and Twitter, @SStarksKTVA

Latest Stories

  • Cougars make Bartlett feel at home with all-inclusive trip

    by Dave Goldman on May 22, 21:58

    They may compete on the field, but in the end, they’re one team. It showed more than ever on senior night. At a recent game while honoring their own, the Service High School girls soccer team also graciously extended a warm welcome to their opponent, Bartlett. But this was nothing new and is four years […]

  • News

    ‘Just get help’: Family of woman killed in boyfriend’s apparent suicide attempt speaks out

    by Daniella Rivera on May 22, 21:52

    It’s been 33 days since 22-year-old Brittany-Mae Haag’s family learned they’ll never see her again. “[Police said] that it was a shot from Victor Sibson, that he shot my daughter,” said Sheila Lopez, Haag’s mother. Lopez spent the majority of the month since her daughter died thinking Haag’s boyfriend of six years, 21-year-old Victor Sibson, killed her […]

  • APD investigating Government Hill shooting

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 21:30

    Anchorage Police say they’re investigating shooting in the Government Hill area. Late-Monday evening, officers were called to the parking lot of a Subway at Hollywood and Vine where they were seen taking photographs of a yellow vehicle. KTVA’s reporter on scene says blood could be seen in the parking lot near the vehicle. After it […]

  • News

    Hiland Mountain plant sale starts Tuesday

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 22, 20:21

    The plant sale at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center is an event that some people wait all year for. Not just the people who come to buy beautiful hanging baskets but the inmates who grow them, as well. The sale has been going on for at least 20 years, according to Superintendent Gloria Johnson. Most of […]

  • Politics

    Alaska House approves measure limiting opioid prescriptions

    by Liz Raines on May 22, 20:14

    On Monday, the Alaska House passed a bill to limit initial opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. House Bill 159 is part of a push from Governor Bill Walker’s administration to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic, which Walker declared a disaster in February. While members of the House spent nearly four hours debating the […]

  • Politics

    Sullivan’s town hall highlights senators’ difference on Planned Parenthood funding

    by Heather Hintze on May 22, 20:07

    Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) town hall in Anchorage over the weekend highlighted how he and fellow republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) differ on funding for Planned Parenthood. He discussed a variety of topics from fighting opioid abuse to diversifying our economy, but it was the topic of healthcare that really got the crowd engaged. “My […]

  • Weather

    Record rainfall recorded across SE Alaska

    by Melissa Frey on May 22, 17:18

    Significant rain fell across most of Southcentral and Southeast Alaska this weekend as a storm system moved in from the Gulf of Alaska. For Southcentral, this was the wettest day seen in months. Anchorage picked up 0.25 inches of rain on Sunday alone. This was the most rain recorded in Anchorage since late-September of 2016. […]

  • News

    Search underway for 2 overdue boaters

    by KTVA Web Staff on May 22, 17:13

    Late Monday morning, a search began for two overdue boaters in Togiak. The Togiak Village Public Safety Officer contacted Alaska State Police around 11:15 Monday morning to report two overdue boaters. Troopers say Simeon Wassillie and Stephanie Poulsen, both 25, left the village on Saturday in an 18-foot, blue, open hull, 35hp boat and were […]