National Park Service working to see more diversity among visitors

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The Grand Canyon National Park hosted an estimated six million visitors in 2017, and the National Park Service is working to find how to draw a more diverse crowd to see the sights.

A 2011 National Park Service reports shows the large majority of visitors to parks are white. Only one in 10 visitors are Hispanic, and a small seven percent are African American. It’s a concern that both are underrepresented at the parks compared to their populations in the country.

“We should be concerned because something is there keeping us from attending in the same numbers as the rest of the population,” says Xitlaly Reyes, ambassador for Latino Outdoors. “There is definitely a message that is not getting across that that is their park.”

The change doesn’t have to begin with inviting a diverse crowd to the parks. It can start with making sure there’s visibility among the staff and publications, says Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes, outreach coordinator for the Grand Canyon National Park. Reyes agrees, saying she wants to see more brown people, languages and cultures represented within the National Park Service.

Ceja-Cervantes says it’s important to hear from people within their own communities on what they want from the national parks. Not everyone will enjoy the outdoors in the same way, she says.

The entrance fee into national parks is currently $30, but the Interior Department says they will be raising it by $5 this summer. It may place extra pressure on families who are hesitant about visiting. It’s said that the extra cost will be used to help fix the parks.

TED: AS WE MENTIONED THE GRAND CANYON SAW MORE THAN 6 MILLION VISITORS LAST YEAR, BUT THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE DIVERSITY AMONG THOSE VISITORS. TYLER FINGERT SHOWS US SOME OF THE EFFORTS TO MAKE SURE NATIONAL PARKS ARE MORE SENSITIVE OF THE U.S. POPULATION.

TYLER: THOUSANDS OF FEET ABOVE THE CANYON FLOOR, IT IS A VIEW YOU CAN FEEL.

DOUG: NO PICTURES CAN EVER DO IT JUSTICE.

TYLER: LISA BROKENBROUGH AND DOUG GRIFFIN DROVE THREE STRAIGHT DAYS FROM DELAWARE TO GET TO THE GRAND CANYON. AND A CHANCE TO SEE WHAT 6 MILLION VISITORS SAW LAST YEAR ALONE.
LISA: WHEN YOU ARE HERE, YOU GET TO EXPERIENCE MORE THAN JUST A PICTURE. THE PICTURES ARE BEAUTIFUL, BUT BEING HERE, YOU GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE AND JUST THE WOW FACTOR OF EVERYTHING.

TYLER: THE PARK BOASTS SOME OF THE BEST VIEWS OF THIS WONDERFUL CANYON THAT STRETCHES MORE THAN 250 MILES ACROSS THE SOUTHWEST, BUT THAT VIEW IS LARGELY SEEN BY A SELECT GROUP OF PEOPLE. VISITORS TO PARKS ARE OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE, WITH ONE IN TEN BEING HISPANIC, AND 7% BEING AFRICAN AMERICAN, BOTH UNDERREPRESENTED IN RELATION TO THEIR POPULATIONS IN THE COUNTRY.

XITLALY: SOMETHING IS KEEPING US FROM ATTENDING IN THE SAME NUMBER AS THE REST OF THE POPULATION. WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED, BECAUSE SOMETHING IS THERE, KEEPING US FROM ATTENDING IN THE SAME NUMBERS.

REPORTER: XITLALY REYES WORKS WITH LATINO'S OUT DOORS. WHICH IS WORKING TO GET MORE LATINOS OUTSIDE.

XITLALY: THERE IS A MESSAGE NOT GETTING ACROSS THAT THAT IS THEIR PARK, THAT THEY CAN ENJOY IT.

TYLER: DIVERSITY IS A DIG ISSUE FOR THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, AND THEY ARE TRYING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE FROM MORE BACKGROUNDS TO PLACES LIKE THIS, THE GRAND CANYON, BUT THEY ARE ALSO TRYING TO INCREASE THE DIVERSITY OF THEIR OWN STAFF, HOPING THAT HELPS TO BRING MORE PEOPLE TO THE PARK.

CEJA-CERVANTES: WE NEED TO DO A LOT OF STUFF WITHIN OUR PARK AS WELL. EVERYTHING FROM MAKING SURE STAFF LOOKS LIKE THE AMERICAN PUBLIC, MAKING SURE THERE IS VISIBILITY IN OUR PUBLICATIONS.

REPORTER: VANESSA IS THE OUTREACH COORDINATOR AT THE GRAND CANYON. SHE IS WORKING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE TO THE PARK, AS THEY GET READY TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS. REYES SAYS SHE HOPES SOME OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE WEARING PARK UNIFORMS.

REYES: I THINK YOU NEED TO SEE MORE BROWN PEOPLE REPRESENTED, MORE LANGUAGES REPRESENTED, MORE CULTURE.

REPORTER: BEYOND HIRING, THE GRAND CANYON IS ALSO REACHING OUT TO UNDERREPRESENTED COMMUNITIES, ASKING ABOUT THEIR INTERESTS.

CEJA-CERVANTES: NOT EVERYONE ENJOYS THE OUTDOORS THE SAME WAY. SOMEONE MAY ENJOY AN EIGHT-MILE HIKE INTO THE CANYON, WHILE SOMEONE ELSE MAY ENJOY WATCHING THE WILDLIFE HANGING OUT WITH THEIR FAMILY. SO WE ARE TAKING ALL OF THOSE THINGS INTO CONSIDERATION.

REPORTER: SHE ALSO SAYS THE PARK SERVICE IS USING THEIR BEST AS SET, PEOPLE, BY MAKING SURE A FRIENDLY FACE IS THERE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS.

CEJA- CERVANTES: WHEN I GO OUT TO A TRAIL AND I SEE SOMEONE OR I SEE A HISPANIC FAMILY I GET REALLY EXCITED. AND I’M LIKE HEY GUYS I CAN SPEAK SPANISH SO IF YOU GUYS NEED ANYTHING LET ME KNOW!

REPORTER: MANY OF THESE EFFORTS COULD BE IN VAIN AS THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE IS GETTING READY TO RAISE ENTRANCE FEES. KEVIN DAHL WORKS FOR THE NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION.

KEVIN: THERE IS NO QUESTION ABOUT IT ACCESS TO THE PARKS WILL BE AFFECTED AS THE PRICE GOES UP.

REPORTER: THE PRICE TO SEE ALL OF THIS INCREASE ONLY $5, NOT NEARLY AS DRAMATIC AS PRICES PROPOSED LAST YEAR, WHICH WOULD HAVE PUSHED THE ENTRANCE FEE TO AS HIGH AS $70 AT SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR PARTS IN PEAK SEASON.

KEVIN: EVERY DOLLAR MORE THAT IT TAKES TO GET TO A PARK, EXCLUDES SOME PEOPLE.

REPORTER: THE INTERIOR DEPARTMENT IS RAISING ENTRANCE FEES TO HELP FIX THE PARKS. TO A TOTAL TAB OF MORE THAN $11 BILLION, AND YELLOWSTONE, THEY NEED ABOUT A HALF BILLION DOLLARS IN FIXES, FOR THE GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS, THEY NEED MORE THAN 200 MILLION, AND THE GRAND CANYON NEEDS MORE THAN 300 MILLION.

KEVIN: AT THE HEART OF THE ISSUE IS CONGRESS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FUNDING THE OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS. FUNDING HAS GONE DOWN, AND VISITATION IS AT ALL-TIMES HIGH.

REPORTER: BACK WITH LISA AND DOUG THOUGHT THE SHORT TRIP WAS WORTH IT.

DOUG: SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T AFORD, BUT SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T NOT AFFORD, AND THIS RIGHT HERE, YOU CAN'T NOT AFFORD IT.

REPORTER: FOR THEM A VIEW THAT CAN'T BE SEEN IN PICTURES.

TED: THE PARK SERVICE IS ALSO USING FEE-FREE DAYS AS A WAY TO BATTLE THE COST OF VISITING, BUT EVEN THAT IS FACING A CUT BACK. LAST YEAR THERE WERE TEN SUCH DAYS, THIS YEAR ONLY FOUR, AND A PROGRAMMING NOTE TONIGHT AT '7:00 BE HERE TO CATCH "WINGS OVER GRAND CANYON." FOLLOW THE COLORADO RIVER OVER THE COURSE OF 1,000 AIR MILES THROUGH THE GRAND CANYON ALL THE WAY TO LAKE MEAD. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF "ARIZONA HORIZON." YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Xitlaly Reyes: Ambassador, Latino Outdoors
Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes: Outreach Coordinator, Grand Canyon National Park

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