"…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."
-- excerpt from Conor Knighton’s 2020 book Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park
While signs like this came down long ago, they left a legacy. One that was not welcoming to all. That legacy can still be witnessed today through the lens of the ethnic makeup of (national) park systemwide visitation, which remains overwhelmingly white.
Access and opportunity and experience must advantage all. Regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, gender identity, or national origin. Period. It actually seems a bit crazy that it even requires definition. Every effort should be made to make all feel welcome at our National Parks and NPS sites, and everywhere really.
Whether through targeted gifts and grants to organizations already engaged in this important inclusionary work, or our own efforts through the TIWYSD portfolio, helping make an impact in this regard, in this important way, is a priority for the foundation.
Yet another excerpt from Conor Knighton’s 2020 book Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park perfectly sums up why all must be allowed, encouraged even, to have a relationship with nature:
"I knew I would be taking the memories and lessons learned from my year spent in the national parks with me for the rest of my life. They would influence how I lived that life, and how I saw myself in relation to this vast, wide world."
Nature is empathic. It to us. ALL of us. We also need to have empathy for nature.