Commission Urges California State Parks to Welcome More People of Color

By Julianne Hing Jan 30, 2015

California state parks cover some 1.3 million acres of land, including 339 miles of the state’s famed coastline. But those parks are often left in disrepair, and visitors who do make pilgrimages to them don’t reflect the state’s demographics. The commission Parks Forward is filing a report today which urges the state to fix both of those fundamental problems, the Los Angeles Times reports.

California’s population is 40 percent Latino, though that might not be so apparent from a visit to a state park. "The visitors don’t look like California," Parks Forward commissioner and USC professor of American Studies Manuel Pastor told the LA Times. The state ought to improve transportation to state parks for those who live in cities, and make the parks more accessible to short-term visitors, the commission recommended. 

Part of the urgency is about self-preservation. Without the political support of California’s fastest-growing demographic, its state parks could languish further, commissioners note.

The Golden State’s not the only one thinking hard about why its visitor demographics don’t reflect the larger population’s. The National Park Service is confronting the very same issues, Colorlines fam Brentin Mock wrote over at Grist.

Mock wrote:

Shelton Johnson, an African American ranger at Yosemite National Park in California, talked about the challenge of getting black youth into the great outdoors in Ken Burns’ 2009 PBS documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. "How do I get them here?" Johnson asked. "How do I let them know about the buffalo soldier history, to let them know that we, too, have a place here? How do I make that bridge, and make it shorter and stronger? Every time I go to work and put the uniform on, I think about them."

Read Mock’s ideas for how to fix this over at Grist.