Zachary Ormsby: Change Agent for Access and Equity
David Herman, Writer/Editor
When he helped shape the initial development of Bureau of Land Management’s new 21st Century Blueprint for Outdoor Recreation, Zachary Ormsby put his background in landscape ecology to good use. He also drew on personal experiences that taught him the importance of making public lands accessible to all. Growing up with a sister with special needs provided one key perspective on the value of accessibility. Becoming disabled himself after an accident in 2014 provided another. This “stereoscopic” view of disability, coming to know it from the inside as well as the outside, informed Zachary’s multipronged efforts to advance access and equity in the BLM and beyond.
Currently serving as the Field Manager for California’s Central Coast Field Office, Zachary works with a service dog under a reasonable accommodation. Thanks in part to his training as a Diversity Change Agent and his experience giving presentations on Diversity, Respect and Dignity, Storytelling, and Disability Awareness, he is also an eloquent advocate for persons with disabilities, both within the BLM and in the larger public. His advocacy stems from his belief that by tearing down barriers to access in the Bureau, the agency can serve as a model for society, with its successes rippling outward to promote greater equity everywhere.
Before taking on his present role, Zachary worked at the BLM Headquarters for the National Landscape Conservation System. Zachary’s career reflects one of his core tenets as an advocate: the importance of representation. By ensuring that people with different backgrounds and experiences, including individuals with disabilities, are part of its staff, the BLM can build a workforce that mirrors the diversity of the communities it serves. At the same time, if employees with a variety of perspectives have a seat at the table from the start, issues of access and equity can be factored into the planning process—rather than be addressed after the fact through consultation or mitigation.
Zachary is putting these principles into practice in managing construction of accessible trailheads in the northern part of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument. Several miles of trails in this part of the 5800-acre Monument, located just north of Santa Cruz, will debut for public use by spring 2024. Under Zachary’s leadership, trails in the southern portion of the Monument will take accessibility to a whole new level. Thanks to planning efforts prioritizing access from the beginning, these trails will sit beside a coastal terrace, offering accessible parking for visitors to immerse themselves in the environment in whatever manner available to them—whether through unparalleled views of the Pacific, the feel of the fresh sea breeze, or the sounds of shorebirds.
While engaging in this work and fulfilling his other responsibilities as Field Manager, Zachary remains mindful of how accessible trails and recreational facilities benefit everyone. This includes not just persons with disabilities, but also parents with children in strollers, older visitors with impaired mobility, and more. In this way, he is working to reinforce one of the strategic pillars of the 21st Century Blueprint: recreation for all.