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On August 24, the National Park Service turned 100 years old. But did the millennial generation or minority populations nationwide know of the anniversary? Would they care?

The centennial celebrates the wonders of the parks’ past 100 years, but the celebration also looked to the future.  For its second century, the National Parks Foundation is kicking off a stewardship initiative that targets millennials and minority groups.

In the past century, most marketing images of our national parks shows White America around the camp fire, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and hiking amid natural wondrous scenery. But the past five years have seen a 35 percent decline in White America and their millennial children visiting our national parks, forcing the National Parks Service to look at all of America to boost visitor numbers.

As part of its new campaign, the National Parks Service will include more images of youthful ethnic diversity surrounded by picturesque and inviting settings. The advertising will tie into initiatives and programming targeted and tailored for America’s diverse populations.

But is it going to take the next 100 years to get the younger generation’s attention?   

Inner-city kids who do not have a tradition of visiting national parks may see images of White hikers hiking up tall mountain peaks as scary, empty, forbidden and not welcoming, National Parks Service Director Jonathan Jarvis recently told National Geographic.

According to research conducted by outdoor gear retailer REI, African Americans and Latinos do not have an interest in enjoying the great outdoors, and millennials don’t go outdoors in favor of engaging with technology. These trends make park visitors disproportionately members of the older, White population, the retailer found.

To fix the past imagery and to properly introduce the National Park Service and its parks to minority groups, the National Parks Service recently changed the face of their centennial brochure cover to an image of an African American teenager watching five young people leaping off a dock into a lake. The image, along with other, similar advertising is intended to depict culturally diverse youngsters having fun in a welcoming landscape.

In addition, the Obama Administration’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, now in its second year, offers every fourth-grader and their families the chance to visit a National Park for free during the 2016-17 school year and during summer vacation through August 2017.

Visit the National Parks Service at  www.nps.gov for a National Parks in your area, things to do and to see and visitors’ guides. Visit the National Parks Foundation at www.nationalparks.org for free passes in to visit a national park.

Cathy Allen is an award-winning Urban Environmentalist, the co-creator of G.R.A.S.S. (Growing Resources After Sowing Seed) as well as Chair of the “Grow-It Eat It” campaign. G.R.A.S.S. is an environmental entrepreneurial nonprofit program based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology. In conjunction with Baltimore City Public Schools, Allen’s campaign has planted over a half-million trees on the lawns of Baltimore City public schools. She can be reached at cathy.allen@thegreenambassador.org.

 

Cathy Allen

AFRO Science Writer