Don’t Care About National Parks? The Park Service Needs You To

Don’t Care About National Parks? The Park Service Needs You To
Take a stroll through Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona, and you can delight in a wide array of animals and vegetation, including Sonoran scrub oak, desert agave and prickly pear cactus to name a few. However, if you pay close attention to your fellow park visitors, you’ll likely be hard-pressed to see the same degree of diversity in people hiking the trails. The park, like many others throughout the country, is facing a diversity challenge, one that is creating a divide between the services it provides and the community in which it resides.

Approximately forty four percent of Tucson’s population of more than one million people is Hispanic; however, Saguaro Park receives just about four percent diverse visitation, according to the park’s superintendent, Darla Sidles. On a broader scale, national parks in the United States benefitted from more than 307.2 million visitors in 2015. While the National Park Service (NPS) does not collect visitation demographics (individual parks can conduct their own visitation surveys), those working in the field are quick to believe that a majority of visitors last year were white. So why the disconnect? Leaders at Saguaro National Park liken its lack of diverse visitors to its own failure to reflect the type of people living in the Tucson Metropolitan Area.

From schools to lakes, hotels to doctor offices, hundreds of places throughout the Grand Canyon State bear the Saguaro namesake. But when asked what comes to mind when hearing the name of the Arizona state…
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