Ever been to Yellowstone in Wyoming? Yosemite in California? Acadia in Maine? If you have, you probably noticed that you were one of the few people of color there. According to “The National Park System Comprehensive Survey of the American Public” released earlier this week, blacks and Hispanics are severely under-represented in terms of visitors to the country’s 394 national parks.
Overall blacks account for just 7 percent of visitors to national parks and when you look at parks that have a wilderness focus, it gets worse. At Yosemite, black folks were a mere 1 percent of visitors in 2009.
Centuries old trees that are as tall as skyscrapers, wild animals in their natural habitats and sparkling, unspoiled lakes are just a few of the treats found in national parks. That’s a far cry from the blighted and neglected inner city neighborhoods that many people of color call home. Maybe you’re not a hardcore outdoors person and that’s cool. Personally, I am not the one to be hiking up mountains or spending an evening in a sleeping bag in dirt, but I do enjoy taking in the beauty of nature and I make a point to remove myself from the NYC grind on a regular basis.
So what gives? Why don’t black people visit national parks? It’s not the entrance fee. Yellowstone costs $25/vehicle for a seven-day pass. Arrive on foot at Yosemite and it’ll cost you 10 bucks. Is it the cost/time associated with getting there? Is appreciating nature just not a priority when you have other more immediate concerns?
Obviously visiting a park is not the most pressing matter in the world right now, but it is something to think about. Changing your environment, even if just temporarily, can make a big impact on how you think and feel.
Oh and if you are interested in learning more about getting in touch with nature and all that good stuff, check out OutdoorAfro.com! Super cute site and very informative.