Pamela Slaughter is a Black woman who grew up in Oregon. She has a deep appreciation for nature. But she said that’s been challenged by a series of hateful, harassing comments she and her children have received while hiking.
“That really shook me up," Slaughter testified during a March hearing in the Oregon Senate's Energy and Environment Committee.
"I decided to stop going out as far and stop going to my favorite places, and stick very close to heavily trafficked places," she said.
And Slaughter said even though she still lives in Portland, a relatively short drive from the Pacific Northwest's many natural wonders, her children don't share her enthusiasm for the great outdoors.
"When people are harrassed because of how they look, or because they're different, you feel more vulnerable," she said. "It can be scary going out after that."
A bill pending in the Senate is meant to make trails, campgrounds and lakes a more welcoming place for all Oregonians. Under Senate Bill 289, if someone is convicted of a bias crime that took place at a state park or on state-controlled waters, that person would be banned from state parks and waterways for up to five years. They would also lose their hunting or fishing license.
"It is an attempt to try to make Oregon safe for everyone," said Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland. "It's not, at this point, and that's a real problem."
The bill is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor on Wednesday, April 28. If approved, it would head to the Oregon House.