While popular television shows such as The Office use off-beat humor and politically incorrect episodes which highlight societal ignorance about race, there exists today a strong movement to educate people about diversity and accurately call to attention the importance which each race has played in the American culture. This last presidential election brought to light minority issues. Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and African American voters have increased in ‘percentage’ while white voting ‘percentage’ has decreased since 2004. (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/voting/cb13-84.html)
In the past few decades the United States has seen a growing trend among businesses and other groups, such as history writers, to look at the importance of minorities. This look expands beyond race even into the realm of the disabled and sex (male/female). Companies such as Walgreens are making huge efforts to become inclusive employers. This trend to include all user groups is not exclusive to the business sector. So what does this have to do with our landscape?
With the loss of governmental funding due to the sequestration and the effects of an economic recession which begun in 2008, many national and state parks are looking to tap any and all user groups which they have previously failed to accommodate. ABC News recently wrote on the government’s (National Park) initiative to expand their user-groups to include Latinos, Blacks, and other minorities. While some people may see this as a last ditch effort to bring in some income to save the park system, others recognize this initiative as an opportunity long in the making.
Due to Americas history of privilege among whites and males (as in many other cultures), many of our historical accounts and facilities have tailored their efforts and resources towards this end. The two articles by ABC highlight how the National Park Service is beginning to take into account this lack of planning for minorities and how the Park’s services might better accommodate different user groups.
One issue which I have heard raised as an example is the differences between Whites and Latinos and their use of facilities like picnic areas, camping areas, and open space. Whites typically bring a smaller family group to places like camping facilities resulting in the need for a smaller camping pad and one picnic table. In comparison, Latinos typically have a much larger family group which includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Therefore, the need for larger group facilities is required. As ABC implies, simply pushing together a couple tables is not just an easy answer. Good user group planning in our cities which aid people in feeling welcome in parks and landscapes demands proper assessment of the diversity which exists followed by an intentional execution of programming.
Many groups have developed which seek to expose minorities to the outdoors and the parks in our nation. These groups seek to dispel myths that our parks are dangerous and seek to introduce relevant signage and programming which highlights the importance that minorities have played in the development of these places and our nation.
The American Latino Heritage Fund is currently sponsoring a contest to send a blogger to one of three national parks to engage diverse audiences via social media. (Check it out here: http://www.alhf.org/connect/american-latino-expedition
The National Park Foundation has also created ‘Ticket to Ride’ which seeks to provide efficient transportation to over 100,000 students so that they might engage and explore our national parks. http://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/programs/ticket-ride
Out-Door Afro seeks to inspire and celebrate African Americans connection to nature.
The Disabled Travelers Companion http://www.tdtcompanion.com/NPS/
Seeks to highlight accessible areas within national and state parks as well as other places.
Go to these site to learn more about the National Monuments, parks, and programs, which are trying to be inclusive in their programming.
http://www.alhf.org/ (American Latino Heritage Fund) & https://www.facebook.com/AmericanLatinoHeritageFund
www.nationalparks.org (National Park Foundation)
http://www.tdtcompanion.com/NPS/ (The Disabled Travelers Companion)
National Parks Face Bleak Future Without Latinos by Emily Deruy. http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/national-park-service-diversity/story?id=19030969
National Park Service is Actually Courting Minorities by Emily Deruy.