One of the things we’ve always noticed when we’ve traveled to America’s magnificent state and national parks is that we see almost no black or Hispanic faces and, when we see Asian faces, they’re almost invariably Japanese tourists. The vast bulk of the visitors at these parks are white middle class people. It’s obviously a cultural thing, because this holds true whether the parks are cheap or expensive, or near to or far from heavily populated areas (which implicates ease and expense of access).
Marin County has taken note of this discrepancy at its own parks and has decided to invest $84,000 in programs aimed at enticing poor people and minorities to come to parks:
Officials awarded $84,000 to six programs that encourage “a more diverse community of visitors” at county parks, with much of the cash going to a nutrition and family fitness group, LIFT-Levantate, for a “park ambassador” program.
The Board of Supervisors approved “Measure A” sales tax grants benefiting the poor and minority communities as recommended by parks officials.
I was going to say that, since their taxes help support these parks, maybe it makes sense bringing their attention to the fact that they can enjoy the parks. It then occurred to me that their taxes do not support the parks because, if they are poor, they’re presumably in the 51% of Americans who get a free ride tax-wise.
It seems to me that the parks are there and it’s kind of up to people to find them if they want to. Having said that, I realize that I live in a bubble: upper middle-class, well-connected, well-educated, well-informed — and the child of poor immigrants who thought that driving to a national park was an extraordinarily wonderful vacation for children, especially since we couldn’t afford airplane trips anywhere, whether to Europe or even the East Coast.
What do you think? I can’t decide whether my instinct — “This is silly!” — is sensible, curmudgeonly, or class-ist.