“Creating experiences for yourself is one thing. Creating opportunities for others to become part of the journey is the one that can change a life.”
– Stacey Morse, Co-Founder of the Morse Group and Advisory Board Member
While signs like this one at Shenandoah National Park came down long ago, they left a legacy and one that clearly wasn’t welcoming to all. That legacy can still be seen today through the lens of the ethnic makeup of park systemwide visitation which remains overwhelmingly white. This excerpt from Conor Knighton’s 2020 book Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park best explains why:
“…nothing less than the future of the national parks is on the line. By 2045, the United States is expected to have a majority nonwhite population, and if the majority of the voting public does not feel a strong connection to the parks, which cost billions of dollars to run and sit on eighty-five million acres of land, then they may cease to be parks. The “National Park Idea” is an idea, not a guarantee, and if it’s an idea that’s going to survive, then it’s about time we get some new ideas about how to make the parks more inclusive.”
And the historical reasons why the nonwhite population does not feel a strong connection to the parks are many.
Access and opportunity and experience must advantage all regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, gender identity, or national origin. Every effort should be made to make all feel welcome at our National Parks and other NPS sites. Helping to make an impact in this regard is a priority for the foundation. And not only so for our National Parks, but also for all our public lands and natural spaces, and conservancy causes in general.
And this is what we call our 2045 initiative.