National Parks Need Diversity To Share And Care For Our Treasures
The Great Outdoors is a key to interest, defense and healing of all, how restricted should it be?
People viewing the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Yosemite are united in awe, recognize their belonging, and universally find inspiration in nature. This is a human trait that surmounts class, color and creed.
Even Hawaii Volcanoes, at present, is cautiously re-opening since the lava eruptions begun last week. The world’s most active volcano proves to be a major draw, despite inherent risks.
Our US national parks are a natural and national treasure. Traditionally, however, they have not always been so open to people of color or those of lower income.
This is a concern most recently because an admission charge to national parks is being raised in many places to over fifty dollars per vehicle. Prices are set to double in some locations, and passes that were once free or earned for seniors, are a thing of the past. This restricts the use of some parks even more severely than some previous policies.
During the Jim Crow era, for example, there were designated ‘For Colored’ areas in some parks, and very few working minorities could afford entrance fees anyway. Parks then, and now, remain places dominated by white visitors who can afford both the time and cost of cross country tourism. There is also a stigma to ‘living outdoors’ for some people of color, who understandably have lived in camp-like conditions historically. Then there is the legacy of lynching, security for free-roaming individuality, white privilege and more.
Native Americans, also, have a sad history in relationship to such sacred places that traditionally have been a source not only of sustenance, but culture and belonging.
But, if anything were ever deservedly designed for everybody and every living entity, it is nature. Nature thrives only with diversity. Nature teaches healing, belonging and beauty to mind, body and spirit. In short, nature is of infinite value, and putting a price on restorative need for nature does not suggest universal opportunity, but entitlement of the few.
Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has defended the moves to increase revenue from national parks, but there is controversy surrounding the need for such high increases to be funded by visitors.
There is neglect to restoration and renovation, but the few places that are protected from complete commercialization should be open to as many people and native species as can be protected. Perhaps, recognizing the vitality of our parks in these times of division, climate change, and even potential violent conflict, should be a mission for national defense.