Study: Park Plans Should Consider All Cultures

May 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on Study: Park Plans Should Consider All Cultures 

Latino campers

ABC/Univision previously detailed some of the reasons minorities are reluctant to travel to parks, and they range from fears about safety to a lack of transportation.

Some of those concerns are difficult to tackle, and looming budget cuts don’t help the situation either. But advocates of increasing the diversity of park visitors say there are steps the park service needs to take if they want a future, ABC News reported.

John Griffith, a supervisor with California Conservation Corps, an agency that gives young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity a chance to work outdoors, says simply adding more picnic tables at parks would be a good start.

“If you think about a typical white family, there are four people in that family and they need one picnic table,” he said. “But when Latin American families come, they often come with grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles and one table is not enough.”

Why not just rent multiple campsites? Park planners might ask that question but if they included Latinos in the planning process, they’d have an answer before it became a problem.

Latino families don’t want to be split up into different sites. They want a bunch of tables in one place where they can all be together. It might not sound like a huge drawback, but it contributes to the sense that their preferred style of vacationing is not considered and that is a big issue.

John Griffith

“If you have a Latino and black population, then you should make sure to include those user groups in the planning of parks,” Griffith said. “If I was planning a park, I’d want the urban population to have access, so I’d run bus lines, and I would have multiple tables for extended family groups. If you’re engaging user groups with the design, I think you have much higher engagement.”

Spanish-language trail signs would also help, as would including stories about more than just the white settlers and native populations in park exhibits.

That sounds easy, right? Except it’s not really happening.

Planners Don’t Plan for Minority Campers

Griffith says park planners have assumed minorities are not interested in the outdoors so they haven’t planned for them. And even though minorities might be interested in going to the parks, the parks don’t reflect what they need, so they don’t feel welcome.

“There’s a negative assumption loop going on,” he said, and it needs to be broken to keep the park system vibrant.

One way to do that, Griffith says, is to engage children, especially racial and ethnic minorities who might not get to parks on their own.

“Kids are not engaging, they’re not playing outdoors,” he said. “No great conservationist has been raised indoors. Those early outdoor experiences are super important. We need our kids, all of our kids, to have a relationship with nature.”

And that’s not only important, it’s vital to the future of the park system.

Aaron Ableman, co-founder of Balance Edutainment, which aims to teach kids about conservation through entertainment, says one way to do that is through the “ubiquitous power of pop culture.”

He said kids are even more interested in conservation than adults, especially when it’s presented in a way that resonates with them, like through hip hop or YouTube videos.

The key, he said, is that “at the root of it, there needs to be a powerful story.”

Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro founder

Rue Mapp, co-founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, an effort to get minority kids into nature, said the park service needs to do a better job of conveying that there are national parks and monuments near many urban areas and that they are affordable.

She cautioned against bundling all Latinos together or all African-Americans in a group. Different communities will respond differently to information, she said, so the parks need to test what works and not assume that a blanket outreach effort will be successful.

The National Park Foundation, the official charity of the national parks, has focused recently on improving access to the parks for Latinos and other minorities. The organization has an American Latino Heritage Funddevoted specifically to making sure the national parks and monuments tell the Latino experience as an integral part of the American story. (Disclosure: Fusion Executive Producer Miguel Ferrer is on the ALHF Board). Last year, for example, the César E. Chávez monument was established to recognize the contributions of the renowned labor leader.

Midy Aponte, executive director of the American Latino Heritage Fund, said her organization tries to educate Latinos through social media and other campaigns that the parks are open to everyone and that Latinos and other minorities have played a critical role in their history. The foundation use things like Twitter and Facebook to combat the myths that the parks are expensive or that memberships are required. They also run a program called Ticket to Ride that offers transportation to the parks.

Midy Aponte

Aponte said the foundation wants to “educate this audience not only about their history and heritage being reflected in the parks, but also that they’re here and ‘Let’s go enjoy them.'”

“White people aren’t going to save the earth,” Griffith said. “It’s going to take all of us and so all of us have to be engaged. The people right now making the calls need to be reaching out to user groups and kids and making sure they feel welcome.”

He added that if there were more of an outcry from the public, he thinks that would already be happening.

“I think it has to happen or our natural parks are going to become obsolete,” Griffith said. “If they want to stay in the game, we need to diversify.”


National Parks Seek Greater Latino Appeal

October 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on National Parks Seek Greater Latino Appeal 

Latino culture is almost non-existent at national parks and historical sites, despite a lengthy history in North America that dates back hundreds of years.

The Obama administration is trying to draw more Latinos to U.S. national parks through the creation of a list of Latino heritage sites within the national park system, Travel Weekly reported.

The endeavor is headed by the American Latino Heritage Fund within the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the national parks. Latino sites range from Spanish colonial fortifications to missions across the country from Florida to California.

Latinos are under-represented in park visitor numbers, according to Francisco Carrillo, director of Latino affairs for the Department of the Interior. He said that the government is working with groups such as the ASTA/NTA Hispanic Task Force to call attention to the Latino heritage program.

Karen Nozik, director of ally development and partnerships for the National Parks Conservation Association, a lobbying group for the national parks, said, “The demographics of the U.S. are changing, and we need to educate more Latinos about the parks. They are the perfect demographic for parks. They like intergenerational trips of two to four days duration and they like to drive to their vacations.”

Besides publicizing Latino heritage sites in national parks, the National Park Service wants to find and preserve other sites that show the contribution of American Latinos.

For example, the new Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif., pays tribute to the man who founded the United Farm Workers of America.


The 2010 census counted 50.5 million Latinos in the U.S. Latinos comprise 16.3% of the U.S. population, an increase of 46.3% in 10 years. Yet despite a 400-year history in North America Latino culture, heritage, visitation and stewardship are almost non-existent at national parks and historical sites. Only 3% of the 86,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places explicitly recognize and celebrate our country’s ethnically diverse cultures.


Bloggers’ Road Trip Will Highlight Latino History

July 11, 2012 by · Comments Off on Bloggers’ Road Trip Will Highlight Latino History 

The American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation announced Tuesday (July 10) that beginning July 15, five of the nation’s top Latino social media influencers are setting off on a road trip of a lifetime with the shared mission of visiting historic sites protected by the National Park Service that honor the contributions of Latinos throughout American history, according to a news release.

In partnership with Hispanicize 2013 and founder Manny Ruiz and with the support by automotive sponsor Chevrolet and telecommunications partner Verizon, this unique social media project will raise awareness of and support for the American Latino Heritage Fund. The fund strives to tell of a more inclusive story of American History by preserving, celebrating and promoting the cultural, economic and civic contributions of Latinos to the American story.

The “American Latino Heritage Road Trip” will document the history of the nation through four regional road trips spanning thousands of miles in the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Midwest. Audiences can follow the road trip on Twitter, using the hashtag #LatinoHeritage, or by visiting any number of partnering sites, including: and

“We’re thrilled to be working with Hispanicize and Being Latino on the American Latino Heritage Roadtrip,” says Midy Aponte, executive director of the fund. “Latinos’ contributions are deeply embedded in the fabric of American History. We hope the stories these bloggers will uncover will help generate a renewed interest in how the American story is told throughout the national park system – and also inspire Latinos to visit national parks.”

“This social media project aims to show all Americans – regardless of race, language, political affiliation or skin color – that Hispanics have played many varied and vital roles throughout U.S. history from Key West to Seattle,” said Ruiz, who in the past two summers has documented 22,000 miles of major family road trips on his PapiBlogger blog.

The five social media influencers are no stranger to online media. They include:

  • Lance Rios of Being Latino: Rios (@BeingLatino) and his team from Being Latino will canvas the Northeast from New York City to Washington, D.C. His adventures will be posted on
  • Alex de Carvalho of the South Florida Media Club: de Carvalho (@AlexDC) will tour Texas, New Mexico and parts of Arizona.
  • Eva Smith of Latina Mom Bloggers/Tech.Food.Life Blog: Smith (@Eva_Smith) and her family will document the Southwest starting in San Diego, California and through Arizona and New Mexico. Her travels will be documented on
  • Cristy Clavijo-Kish of Hispanicize/Los Tweens: Clavijo-Kish (@LatinoMarketing) and her family will explore the Mid-Atlantic Region. Her road trip will be posted on
  • Maria de los Angeles of Sex and the Beach: de los Angeles (@ViceQueenMaria) will be joined by north Florida Latina lifestyle blogger Babushka (@bbabushka) who will drive the entire state of Florida from Key West to Tallahassee. De los Angeles will blog her adventures at while Babushka will document at her website

“The American Latino Heritage Road Trip is an amazing opportunity to showcase the Latino community and its contributions to our country,” said Jocelyn K. Allen, GM director of regional, grassroots and diversity communications. “We are proud to support this program to celebrate Latino heritage and culture.”

About the American Latino Heritage Fund

The American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation will assist the National Park Service and communities across the country to ensure that our national parks and historic sites preserve, reflect and engage the diverse stories and communities of American Latinos for future generations. For more information, please visit