The National Park Service (NPS) is spending $100,000 to research and correct the lack of diversity among park visitors.
“Of the many challenges facing the NPS in the 21st century, the lack of ethnic and racial diversity among the visiting population may be the most critical,” the NPS said in a grant announcement posted on the government’s grant website Wednesday.
NPS gave the money to North Carolina State University to research the diversity problem and help develop, “evidence-based strategies to guide visitor services planning.” The announcement states that the grant was awarded without competition.
White people are twice as likely to visit parks as black people, the document states. Park visitors are predominately white, and minorities make up only 22 percent of park visitors, even though minorities make up 37 percent of the U.S. population, according to research conducted by the NPS in 2008 and 2009.
The university will research current literature, conduct focus groups of black parks visitors, and develop branding and advertising for the NPS. The resulting research will help the NPS and other organizations understand, “the meanings and perceptions African American focus group participants have about the NPS and about public lands in general.”
Marketing and branding strategies will, “enable NPS employees and partners to connect to and engage African American individuals and communities in park, partner, and program efforts and activities.”
U.S. parks reflect America’s racist roots, according to KangJae Lee, assistant teaching professor at the University of Missouri.
“Researchers have documented that the omission of African American history is quite common at public parks and recreation areas,” Lee said in a statement on his research. “So the question is: whose story needs to be told to the public and future generations? African Americans I interviewed firmly believed that African American history needs to be told at these parks.”
According to Lee’s research, which looked at how black people perceive the Cedar Hill State Park located near Dallas, Texas, “any African Americans do not go to parks because their parents and grandparents could not take their children,” Lee said. “In other words, many African Americans’ lack of interest in parks or outdoor recreation is a cultural disposition shaped by centuries of racial oppression.”
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