[PAST EVENT] Ken Ilgunas: On Private Property and the Right to Roam

October 20, 2022
9:30am - 3pm
Swem Library, Botetourt Gallery and Ford Classroom, + morning walk in the College Woods, Lake Matoaka
400 Landrum Dr
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Free food
  • Open to the public
  • Registration/RSVP
Ken Ilgunas event announcement

As part of the IIC 2022-23 Conservation Speaker Series: Reimagining Protected Area Conservation, the Institute for Integrative Conservation, William & Mary Libraries, and the Reves Center for International Studies host a day at W&M with journalist and adventurer, Ken Ilgunas.

Private property is everywhere. Almost anywhere you walk in the United States, you will spot “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs on trees and fence posts. In America, there are more than a billion acres of grassland pasture, cropland, and forest, and miles and miles of coastlines that are mostly closed off to the public. Meanwhile, America’s public lands are threatened by extremist groups and right-wing think tanks who call for our public lands to be sold to the highest bidder and closed off to everyone else. If these groups get their way, public property may become private, precious green spaces may be developed, and the common good may be sacrificed for the benefit of the wealthy few.

Ken Ilgunas, lifelong traveler, hitchhiker, and roamer, will talk about the nineteenth century, when Americans were allowed to journey undisturbed across the country. Today, though, America finds itself as an outlier in the Western world as a number of European countries have created sophisticated legal systems that protect landowners and give citizens generous roaming rights to their countries' green spaces.

Inspired by the United States' history of roaming, and taking guidance from present-day Europe, Ilgunas calls into question our entrenched understanding of private property and provocatively proposes something unheard of: opening up American private property for public recreation. He imagines a future in which folks everywhere will have the right to walk safely, explore freely, and roam boldly—from California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.

About Ken Ilgunas

Ken Ilgunas is an award-winning author, journalist, and backcountry ranger in Alaska. He has hitchhiked ten thousand miles across North America, paddled one thousand miles across Ontario in a birchbark canoe, and walked 1,700 miles across the Great Plains, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. He’s written for the New York Times, Time, Backpacker, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. His adventures and books have been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and NPR. He has a B.A. from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and an M.A. in liberal studies from Duke. He is the author of travel memoirs Walden on Wheels and Trespassing Across America, and advocacy book, This Land Is Our Land. He is from Wheatfield, New York, and is presently living in Scotland.

A full day of activities

Morning Walk: 9:30 am, the College Woods, Lake Matoaka 

    (Meet 9:30 am at the Bee McLeod Recreation Center. 400 Brooks St., Williamsburg, VA 23185, we depart on walk at 9:35 am)

Lunch: 11:30 am, Botetourt Gallery, Swem Library 

Talk: 12:30 pm, Ford Classroom, Swem Library

Coffee Hour and Book Signing: 2:00 pm, Botetourt Gallery, Swem Library

This event is sponsored by the Institute for Integrative Conservation, William & Mary Libraries, and the Reves Center for International Studies.