America’s National Parks Promise More Diversity
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It’s a concern among people who support the preservation of wild places that foreigners don’t have an appreciation for the natural world and might pave over special places like Yosemite (which illegal aliens have already despoiled with pot farms). In particular, environmentalists see wildland preservation as more important than ever as open spaces are turned into suburbs for new immigrants — to the great profit of developers.

As a result, we hear that America’s great national park system must diversify its presentation to appeal to foreigners who may have little interest in the outdoors. That means bilingual signs and Spanish-speaking park rangers at the very least. There will be no escape for traditional Americans who never asked to be diversified.

Plus, there can be unexpected side effects of cultural enrichment, such as tagging. So barrio values are being brought to the outdoors.

French street artist Mr. Andre vandalized a rock with his tagging in Joshua Tree National Park. The Los Angeles Times reported the story in 2015: Graffiti artists’ move to national parks shocks nature community.

But the PBS NewsHour is upbeat:

National Parks work to welcome more diverse Americans, PBS NewsHour, July 4, 2018

The incredible views in America’s national parks are seen largely by a specific demographic. Visitors are overwhelmingly white, with just one in 10 being Hispanic and 7 percent African-American. Special correspondent Tyler Fingert from the Cronkite School of Journalism reports on efforts to increase diversity among visitors as well as staff, and whether an admission price increase will keep people away.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Forty-seven million people are expected to travel for Fourth of July this year, and many of them are spending the holiday at national parks.

But the parks do not have a history of attracting a broad cross-section of America’s population.
 As Tyler Fingert from the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University reports as part of our Race Matters series, some parks officials are trying to change that.

TYLER FINGERT: Thousands of feet above the canyon floor, it’s a view you can feel.

DOUG GRIFFIN: No picture could ever do it justice. It’s everything I expected and then some.

TYLER FINGERT: Lisa Brokenbrough and Doug Griffin drove three straight days from Delaware just to get to the Grand Canyon and a chance to see what more than 6 million visitors saw last year alone.

LISA BROKENBROUGH: When you are here, you get to experience more than just a picture. The pictures are beautiful, but, being here, you get the actual full experience and just the wow factor of everything.

TYLER FINGERT: The park boasts some of the best views of this beautiful canyon that stretches more than 250 miles across the Southwest. But that view is largely seen by a select group of people.

A 2011 National Park Service report shows visitors to parks are overwhelmingly white, with just one in 10 visitors being Hispanic, and just 7 percent African-American, both under-represented compared to their populations in the country.

XITLALY REYES: We should be concerned because something is there keeping us from attending in the same numbers as the rest of the population.

TYLER FINGERT: Xitlaly Reyes works with Latino Outdoors.

XITLALY REYES: There is definitely maybe a message not getting across that that is their park, that they can enjoy it, and that’s, I think, the issue we have there.

TYLER FINGERT: Diversity is a big issue for the National Park Service, and they’re trying to bring more people from more backgrounds to places like this, the Grand Canyon. But they’re also trying to increase the diversity of their own staff, hoping that helps to bring more people to the park.

VANESSA CEJA-CERVANTES: We need to do a lot of stuff within our park as well. And that’s, you know, everything from making sure the staff looks like the American public, making sure that there’s visibility in our publications.

TYLER FINGERT: Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes is the outreach coordinator at the Grand Canyon. She’s working to bring more people to the park as they get ready to celebrate 100 years. Reyes says she hopes some of those people are wearing National Park Service uniforms.

XITLALY REYES: I think we need to see more brown people represented in the National Park Service. We need to see more languages represented, more culture.

TYLER FINGERT: Beyond hiring, the Grand Canyon is also reaching out to under-represented communities, asking about their interests.

VANESSA CEJA-CERVANTES: Not everyone enjoys the outdoors the same way. You know, someone might enjoy an eight-mile hike into the canyon, while someone else might enjoy watching the wildlife, hanging out with their family. So we’re taking all those things into consideration.

TYLER FINGERT: Ceja-Cervantes also says the Park Service is using their best asset, people, by making sure a friendly face is there to answer questions.

VANESSA CEJA-CERVANTES: When I go out to a trail and I see someone, I see an Hispanic family, I get really excited, and I’m like, hey, I can speak Spanish. If you guys need help, let me know.

TYLER FINGERT: But all these efforts could be in vain, as the National Park Service gets ready to raise entrance fees.

Kevin Dahl works with the National Parks Conservation Association.

KEVIN DAHL: There’s no question about it. Access to the parks will be affected as the price goes up.

TYLER FINGERT: The price to see all this will increase only $5,

KEVIN DAHL: Every dollar more that it takes to get to a park excludes some people.

TYLER FINGERT: The Interior Department is raising entrance fees to help fix the parks. Many have a growing list of projects that need to be done, to a total tab of more than $11 billion.

At Yellowstone National Park, they need about a half-billion dollars in fix. For the Great Smoky Mountains, they need more than $200 million. And the Grand Canyon needs more than $300 million.

KEVIN DAHL: At the heart of the issue is that Congress is responsible for funding the operations and maintenance of our national parks. Funding for parks has gone down, which is just incredible, because visitation is at an all-time high.

TYLER FINGERT: Back with Lisa and Doug, the short trip was worth it for just a few hours at one of the natural wonders of the world.

DOUG GRIFFIN: Some things, you can’t afford, but some things, you can’t not afford. And this right here, you can’t not afford it.

TYLER FINGERT: For them, a view that can’t be seen in pictures.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tyler Fingert at the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

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