• 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

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

  • News

    3-year-old sees cop eating alone, so she walks up to his table and sits down

    by Jennifer Earl / CBS News on Mar 29, 17:43

    Sgt. Steven Dearth was taking a quick dinner break when he spotted a little girl in a booth with her family in Panera Bread staring at him. The 3-year-old girl named Lillian was sitting in her dad’s lap when she started waving to the police officer, who works with the Hingham Police Department in Massachusetts. […]

  • Sports

    Freshman Hayden Lieb becomes Bethel’s first All-American wrestler

    by Anna Rose MacArthur/KYUK on Mar 29, 17:27

    Freshman Hayden Lieb has become the first Bethel Regional High School (BRHS) wrestler to earn an All-American title, according to a story originally published by KYUK Public Media. The wrestler earned the honor this weekend at the 2017 National High School Coaches Association Tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “This is a big thing,” said Bethel wrestling […]

  • News

    Tsunami warning system test reveals breaks in communication

    by Melissa Frey on Mar 29, 16:57

    A few errors were identified in the state’s tsunami warning system during a state-wide test Wednesday. This test is done every year to make sure the system is working properly, and Wednesday’s test aimed to reach all coastal Alaska communities at risk. Most people heard or saw the signal loud and clear — it was […]

  • News

    UK begins Brexit process, triggers Article 50 to leave EU

    by CBS News on Mar 29, 16:16

    The United Kingdom formally triggered Article 50 and began the process of leaving the European Union on Wednesday, CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports. The move will end a 44-year relationship, and Britain’s breakup with the EU may not be pretty. The divorce papers were filed at European Union headquarters in Brussels, after British Prime […]

  • News

    New owner, new look for Title Wave Books

    by Heather Hintze on Mar 29, 16:07

    Title Wave Books is currently home to about a half-million books and Angela Libal is partial to all of them. “Impossible, I could never pick a favorite,” she laughed. “It’s like picking your favorite kid, right?” Libal started working at the bookstore 19 years ago, and now she’s the store’s new owner. She’s making a few […]

  • Politics

    Meet the candidates: District 2 – Seat C – Chugiak/Eagle River

    by Daniella Rivera on Mar 29, 15:36

    KTVA invited every registered candidate running in the upcoming Anchorage municipal election to an on-camera interview at our studios to discuss the following topics: Balancing the budget Public safety Introducing new taxes Addressing homelessness in Anchorage Plans for the future We also asked each candidate to submit a 300-word biography, each of which has been […]

  • Lifestyle

    Video: Spectacular northern lights corona captured in real-time

    by KTVA Web Staff on Mar 29, 15:04

      North Pole photographer Sean Kurdziolek specializes in taking stunning photos of the aurora borealis with clients. He described his process in a 2016 series KTVA produced called “Chasing the Lights.” On an outing with clients Monday, he captured a vivid display of aurora corona dancing overhead in real-time. The display occurred around 1 a.m., […]

  • On-Air

    Teacher of the Week: Wendy Barnes

    by James Gaddis on Mar 29, 13:31

    Wendy Barnes learned as a teenager that you should never take anything for granted. When she was 18 years old, she taught sick kids at a hospital in Chernobyl. She said the experience was an eye opener. Years later, as a kindergarten teacher at Tyson Elementary, that lesson still holds true. “You have no idea […]