The history of the national landmarks throughout the United States, such as the Grand Canyon, are rich with culture and diversity. There are over 6 million visitors per year that visit these national parks and landmarks.
However, a 2011 study by the National Park Service concluded that eighty percent of visitors to the parks were white. The breakdown of the other percent is disheartening. Only nine percent were Hispanic, seven percent were African American, three percent were Asian, and one percent were Native American.
To illustrate this point: There are six tribes living in the area that surrounds the Grand Canyon. Therefore, it’s incredibly odd that there is so little representation of Native Americans touring the National Park.
However, the National Park Service is actively working to reverse this. By promoting to minorities, hiring minorities, and actively welcoming minorities, the park is hoping to bring visiting rates up significantly.
Promoting to Minorities
Promotion is essential to changing the hearts and mindset of minorities. They need to feel as though the National Park Service is speaking to them, inviting them to the parks.
“If public lands aren’t telling their story, and they don’t see themselves reflected in these beautiful places, they may not support them,” Interior Secretary for the National Park Service, Sally Jewell said. “They may not recognize that these are their assets and protect them for future generations.”
This is a sad, but true statement that showcases a concrete example of why this issue needs to be rectified.
In addition to inclusivity and basic hospitality, it is vital that minorities recognize that the national parks include their history too. If they don’t feel like the National Parks care about them, they, in turn, will not care about the parks.
According to the Boston Globe, by the year 2055, the collective minority will become the majority in America.
So, the national parks need to start helping minorities understand the vital role their history plays in these parks.
There are two major initiatives that have taken place in recent years. The first is the #FindYourPark initiative and the second is the: Every Kid in a Park plan.
#FindYourPark Campaign: This campaign used the hashtag, #FindYourPark on social media to help bring minorities into the parks.
“It is heartbreaking to meet kids in cities like Los Angeles that have never even seen the Pacific Ocean or experienced walking on sand on the beach. #FindYourPark is a big step in outreach to provide opportunities for more people to experience their parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis in a Huffington Post article.
Every Kid in a Park: This initiative was successful throughout the 2016-2017 school year. This program gave every fourth-grade student in the country a free pass to visit a National Park.
Additionally, there was an $11.5 million appropriation approved for funding transportation in low-budget schools. This helped more students get to the National Parks.
As of September 2015, the National Park Service had more than 23,000 employees. Yet, the breakdown of percentages was almost as bad as the minority attendance. The inquiry found that 83 percent of employees were white, 6 percent were black, and 5 percent were Hispanic. Nearly 6 percent identified collectively as Asian, Hawaiian or American Indian.
“I think we need to see more brown people represented in the National Park Service, we need to see more languages represented, more culture,” Xitlaly Reyes, ambassador for Latino Outdoors in Arizona said.
After all, how are minorities supposed to feel welcomed if their own race, ethnicity, or language is nonexistent throughout the park?
This idea was echoed by Venessa Ceja-Cervantes, a community and centennial outreach coordinator for the Grand Canyon National Park. Ceja-Cervantes says that she is doing her part by adjusting her nametag, to show that she is bilingual. So, when Spanish speaking travelers enter the park, Ceja-Cervantes can help them along their journey. She can answer any of their questions and include them in everything native English speakers would naturally enjoy.
This has meant a lot to people she has met.
This also goes to show that the changes that need to be implemented are not outlandish. They are easy to accomplish, yet they make the trip wonderful for minorities.
Working toward representing the whole of America throughout the employees of the National Parks is achieving a larger goal. When people see representatives of the park echo their roots, there is a sense of community that wasn’t present before.
US Travel cites that in 2015, 13.6 million travelers came from overseas to visit America’s National Parks and monuments. Many of those travelers have a hard time reading and speaking English and a lot of those travelers don’t speak English.
More than that, though. There are plenty of Americans whose first language is not English. If the national parks are representing all Americans, different cultures and languages should be celebrated.
After all, America is based on the idea that everyone is an individual. The US prides itself on the idea that our collective culture is inclusive of every American’s ideals. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense that different races, religions, and languages are not represented.
Welcoming minorities and everyone to the parks don’t just end at being nice to them. To truly welcome them, the parks must be accommodating to them.
When people go to a place that is world renowned, there is an expectation for that place to be worldly. By that expectation, people presume they will be able to read and communicate effectively.
The signs should be written in multiple languages and the people who work at the National Parks should be bilingual.
That way, travelers from other countries as well as American minorities will not feel alienated.
To close, the National Park Service knows how vital it is to ensure everyone is welcomed at US National Parks.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.”
The whole point of their existence is to help inform and upkeep the historical integrity of the park for everyone. People of all different races, religions, and ethnicities helped to form the history of this gorgeous national landmark.
Therefore, the National Park Service is making it a priority to ensure that everyone feels welcome at the Grand Canyon.