National Park Service working to see more diversity among visitors


JOSE: IF YOU ARE HEADED UP TO THE GRAND CANYON THIS MEMORIAL DAY YOU WILL BE COUNTED AMONG THE ESTIMATED 6 MILLION VISTTERS TO TO THE NATURAL WONDER BUT THE NATURAL PARK SERVICE WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE DIVERSITY AMONG THOSE VISITORS. OUR PRODUCER TYLER FINGERT SHOWS US SOME OF THE EFFORTS TO MAKE SURE THE NATIONAL PARKS ARE MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE U.S. POPULATION.

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

DOUG: NO PICTURE COULD EVER DO IT JUSTICE. IT’S EVERYTHING I EXPECTED AND THEN SOME.

Reporter: LISA BROKENBROUGH AND DOUG GRIFFIN DROVE THREE STRAIGHT DAYS FROM DELAWARE JUST TO GET TO THE GRAND CANYON AND A CHANCE TO SEE WHAT MORE THAN SIX MILLION VISITORS SAW LAST YEAR ALONE

LISA: THE PICTURES ARE BEAUTIFUL BUT BEING HERE YOU GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE AND THE WOW FACTOR OF EVERYTHING.

Reporter: THE PARK BOASTS SOME OF THE BEST VIEWS OF THIS BEAUTIFUL CANYON THAT STRETCHES MORE THAN 250 MILES ACROSS THE SOUTHWEST. BUT THE VIEW IS LARGELY SCENE BY A SELECT NUMBER OF PEOPLE. A 2011 NATIONAL PARK SERVICE REPORT SHOWS THE PARK VISITORS ARE OVERWHELMING WHITE WITH 1-10 VISITORS BEING HISPANIC AND 7% BEING AFRICAN-AMERICAN. BOTH UNDERREPRESENTED COMPARED TO THE POPULATION OF THE COUNTRY.

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

Reporter: WORKING WITH LATINOS OUTDOORS AN ORGANIZATION WORKING TO GET MORE LATINOS OUTSIDE.

REYES: THERE IS A MESSAGE NOT GETTING ACROSS THAT IS THEIR PARK AND THEY CAN ENJOY IT. THAT IS, I THINK, THE ISSUE WE HAVE THERE.

Reporter: DIVERSITY IS A BIG 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 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 AND THAT’S, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING FROM MAKING SURE STAFF LOOKS LIKE THE AMERICAN PUBLIC, MAKING SURE THAT THERE IS VISIBILITY IN OUR PUBLICATIONS.

Reporter: VANESSA CEJA-CERVANTES IS THE OUTREACH COORDINATOR AT THE GRAND CANYON AND HE IS -- SHE IS WORKING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE TO THE PARK AS THEY ARE GETTING READY TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS. REYES SAYS SHE HOPES SOME ARE WEARING NATIONAL PARK UNIFORMS.

REYES: I THINK WE NEED TO SEE MORE BROWN PEOPLE REPRESENT AT THE PARK SERVICES. WE NEED TO SEE MORE LANGUAGES REPRESENTED. MORE CULTURE.

Reporter: THEY ARE REACHING OUT TO THE UNDERREPRESENTED COMMUNITIES ASKING ABOUT THEIR INTEREST.

CEJA-CERVANTES: NOT EVERYONE ENJOYS THE OUTDOORS THE SAME WAY. SOMEONE MIGHT ENJOY AN EIGHT-MILE HIKE INTO THE CANYON AND SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT ENJOY WATCHING THE WILDLIFE HANGING OUT WITH THEIR FAMILY. SO WE’RE TAKING ALL THAT INTO CONSIDERATION.

Reporter: CEJA-CERVANTES SAYS THE PARKS SERVICE IS USING THEIR BEST ASSETS, PEOPLE, BY MAKING SURE A FRIENDLY FACE IS THERE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS.

CEJA-CERVANTES: WHEN I GO OUT TO A TRAIL AND I SEE A HISPANIC FAMILY I GET REALLY EXCITED AND I AM LIKE “HEY I CAN SPEAK SPANISH, IF YOU NEED HELP LET ME KNOW”.

Reporter: BUT ALL THESE EFFORTS COULD BE IN VAIN AS THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE GETS 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 THIS WILL INCREASE ONLY $5. NOT NEARLY AS DRAMATIC AS PRICES PROPOSED LAST YEAR PUSHING THE ENTRANCE FEE TO AS HIGH AS $70 AT SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR PARKS DURING PEAK SEASON.

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

Reporter: THEY ARE RAISING FEES TO HELP FIX THE PARK AND MANY HAVE A GROWING LIST OF PROJECTS THAT NEED TO BE DONE TO A TOTAL TAB OF MORE THAN $11 BILLION. AT YELLOW STONE NATIONAL PARK THEY NEED HALF A BILLION DOLLARS IN FIXES. FOR THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS THEY NEED MORE THAN 200 MILLION. AND THE GRAND CANYON NEEDS MORE THAN $300 MILLION.

KEVIN: AT THE HEART OF THE ISSUE, CONGRESS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FUNDING THE OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF NATIONAL PARKS AND FUNDING IS GOING DOWN WHICH IS INCREDIBLE BECAUSE VISITATION IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH.

Reporter: BUT WILL THE INCREASE KEEP PEOPLE FROM THE PARKS?

LIZ: THIS IS PART OF THE TREASURE OF OUR COUNTRY AND WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT ESPECIALLY FOR MULTICULTURAL FAMILIES. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND AND EVERYONE CAN ACCESS OUR PARKS.

Reporter: LIZ WORKS WITH HISPANICS ENJOYING CAMPING, HUNTING AND THE OUTDOORS. HER GROUP SAW THE ORIGINAL PROPOSAL AS PROBLEMATIC. $5 IS MORE REASONABLE.

LIZ: LET'S BE REASONABLE ABOUT INCREASING THE FEES AND DON'T INCREASE THEM BY OVER 100%.

Reporter: BACK WITH LISA AND DOUG, THE SHORT TRIP WAS WORTH IT THREE DAYS IN EACH DIRECTION FOR JUST A FEW HOURS AT ONE OF THE NATURAL WONDERS OF THE WORLD.

DOUG: SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T AFFORD BUT SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T NOT AFFORD. THIS THING HERE YOU CAN'T NOT AFFORD IT.

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

Jose: THE PARK SERVICE IS ALWAYS USING FEE-FREE DAYS AS A WAY OF BATTLE THE COST OF VISITING.

The Grand Canyon National Park is expecting to see six million visitors during the holiday weekend, 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.

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In this segment:

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

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