ArticlePDF Available

People of color and their constraints to National Parks visitation



The United States population is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse than at any other time in its history. More than one-third of all Americans can be classified as a person of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American), and the proportion of ethnic and racial minorities is projected to increase in the future (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the United States, followed by African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Demographers predict that the White population will become a numerical minority by 2050 (Colby & Ortman, 2015). Despite this population change, existing data suggests that people of color visit national parks far less than Whites. Using data from a national survey, Taylor, Grandjean, and Anatchkova (2011) reported that 53% of Whites (non-Hispanic) polled could name a national park they had visited in the last two years. In contrast, only 32% of Hispanics and 28% of Blacks reported they could name a national park they had visited during the same period of time. Data collected by the Visitor Services Project (VSP) housed at Washington State University substantiate that people of color represent a comparatively small fraction of national park visitors. Hispanics and Asian Americans each comprised less than five percent of visitors of national park sites surveyed, while less than two percent of visitors were African Americans. Critics within and outside the National Park Service (NPS) recognize that its long-term survival depends on makings its parks more welcoming and relevant to constituents and a changing population (Wilkinson, 2000). Our goal in the remainder of this paper is to identify key factors that constrain national park visitation among people of color. We believe a constraints perspective will illuminate why people of color do not make greater use of NPS areas, particularly those parks that are remote and where outdoor recreation and scenery are major attractions. This brief review will aid NPS staff and its partners as they continue to diversify the park service and create programs and offerings that are relevant to a broader spectrum of Americans.
The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018) • 73
People of Color and
Their Constraints to National Parks Visitation
David Scott and Kang Jae Jerry Lee
The United States population is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse than in
the past. More than one-third of all Americans can be classified as a person of color (Black,
Hispanic, Asian, or Native American), and the proportion of ethnic and racial minorities is
projected to increase in the future (US Census Bureau 2012). Hispanics are now the largest
minority group in the United States, followed by African Americans, Asian Americans, and
Native Americans. Demographers predict that the White population will become a numerical
minority by 2050 (Colby and Ortman 2015).
Despite this population change, existing data suggests that people of color visit national
parks far less than Whites. Using data from a national survey, Taylor, Grandjean, and Anatc-
hkova (2011) reported that 53% of non-Hispanic Whites polled could name a national park
they had visited in the last two years. In contrast, only 32% of Hispanics and 28% of Blacks
reported they could do so. Data collected by the National Park Service (NPS) Visitor Ser-
vices Project (VSP) substantiate that people of color represent a comparatively small fraction
of national park visitors.1 Hispanics and Asian Americans each comprised less than 5% of
visitors to national park sites surveyed, while less than 2% of visitors were African Americans.
Critics within and outside NPS recognize that its long-term survival depends on making its
parks more welcoming and relevant to constituents and a changing population (Wilkinson
Our goal in the remainder of this paper is to identify key factors that constrain national
park visitation among people of color. We believe a constraints perspective will illuminate
why people of color do not make greater use of NPS areas, particularly those parks that are
remote and where outdoor recreation and scenery are major attractions. This brief review
The George Wright Forum, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 73–82 (2018).
© 2018 George Wright Society. All rights reserved.
(No copyright is claimed for previously published material reprinted herein.)
ISSN 0732-4715. Please direct all permissions requests to
74 • The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018)
will aid NPS staff and its partners as they continue to diversify the park service and create
programs and offerings that are relevant to a broader spectrum of Americans.
Leisure constraints
We begin by defining leisure constraints and provide some principles about how constraints
operate. Leisure constraints are those factors that limit people’s participation in leisure ac-
tivities, people’s use of leisure services (e.g., visitation of national parks), and/or people’s
enjoyment of current activities or services (Scott 2005). This definition casts a wide net and
suggests that constraints impact different facets of leisure participation and outdoor recre-
ation. A key principle to understand is that leisure constraints influence both participation
and preferences. Historically, most constraints studies have sought to explain non-participa-
tion in leisure activities or non-use of leisure services. The underlying assumption in these
studies is that people have leisure preferences, but various factors (e.g., lack of time, access,
resources) constrain their ability to act upon those preferences. These constraints were de-
fined by Crawford and Godbey (1987) as structural and are assumed to be external and
outside people’s control. Crawford and Godbey advanced our understanding of leisure con-
straints when they postulated that there are also various factors that inhibit the development
of leisure preferences. They defined these constraints as intrapersonal; they include person-
ality needs, religiosity, reference group attitudes, prior socialization, and perceived skills and
abilities (Scott 2005). Importantly, intrapersonal constraints result in people defining some
leisure activities, services, and locales as inappropriate, uninteresting, or unavailable. It is
highly likely that both structural and intrapersonal constraints figure prominently as to why
people of color do not visit national parks as often as do Whites.
Another important principle is that leisure constraints are not insurmountable. Research
indicates that many people participate in leisure activities or visit parks despite encountering
constraints. Hubbard and Mannell (2001) documented that the presence of a constraint may
trigger negotiation efforts. Research also shows that individuals who are highly motivated to
participate in outdoor recreation activities are likely to work hard at negotiating constraints
(White 2008). An important implication of this line of inquiry is that national park employ-
ees and their allies can create strategies to assist would-be visitors in their efforts to negotiate
Although a great deal of research has been conducted on constraints to leisure and out-
door recreation, relatively little has been done on factors that prevent people’s use of national
parks. Nevertheless, we believe that the corpus of knowledge on leisure constraints is readily
applicable as to why people of color are less likely than other Americans to visit national
parks. We argue that non-visitation can be boiled down to three sets of factors, discussed
below: (1) limited socioeconomic resources, (2) cultural factors and boundary maintenance,
and (3) discrimination and White racial frames. Scholars have explained that these factors
are related to people’s use of national parks (e.g., Weber and Sultana 2013), but they stop
short of explaining how they actually constrain participation and the development of leisure
preferences. By understanding leisure constraints, park managers will be in a better position
to develop strategies for allaying the conditions that inhibit visitation (Scott 2013). Doing so
The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018) • 75
will mean that the benefits of visiting national parks will accrue to a broader cross-section of
There seems little doubt that these three factors work separately or in tandem to stymie
national park visitation among people of color who express interest in national parks. They
also impair the acquisition of early formative experiences that carry over into adulthood.
White Americans, particularly those who are affluent, routinely pass on to their children
skills, knowledge, and appreciation of the outdoors. They do this by providing them en-
couragement, instruction and equipment, and vacationing with them in national parks and
other exotic destinations. Without formative experiences, people lack skills, knowledge, and
appreciation of the great outdoors in general and national parks specifically. The absence of
these skills often means that many people of color come to equate national parks and other
outdoor areas as White spaces and off limits to them. Parenthetically, the last few decades
have seen a general societal trend wherein children are increasingly disconnected from nature
(Louv 2005). This situation is fueled, in part, by growing parental fears of strangers and the
rise of electronic media. This growing trend may hit people of color the hardest as constraints
to outdoor recreation have been most acute among them.
Limited socioeconomic resources. Low national park visitation and constraints to visi-
tation among people of color in the United States can be attributed, in part, to limited access
to socioeconomic resources (Floyd and Stodolska 2014). According to Taylor et al. (2011),
affluent Americans are three times more likely to visit national parks compared with poor
Americans. They also reported that 69% of Americans with household incomes of over
$150,000 said they visited one or more national parks in the past two years, compared with
only 22% of Americans with household incomes of less than $10,000. Studies also show that
regardless of race or ethnicity, low-income Americans are far more constrained in their leisure
compared with other Americans (Scott 2013). They are more likely to lack information about
park resources, worry about safety, lack reliable transportation, and lack sufficient discretion-
ary income to travel. Simultaneously, poorer Americans are often made to feel loathsome and
inadequate by more affluent citizens and park and recreation employees (McCarville 2008).
Racial and ethnic discrepancies in income, education, and employment persist in the US
(Shinew and Floyd 2005). Blacks earn far less income than Whites, even when two groups
have the same educational level (Bowser 2007). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011)
showed that Blacks have the lowest labor force participation rate (68%) and the highest un-
employment rate (16%) among any racial groups in 2010. Similar patterns are evident among
Latino Americans (Stodolska and Shinew 2014). In sum, constraints to national park visita-
tion among people of color stem in part from comparatively limited economic resources at
their disposal.
Despite the presence of affirmative action efforts and antidiscrimination policies, the
last few decades have actually witnessed increased economic inequality between Whites and
people of color (Scott 2013). Moreover, many people of color, particularly African Americans
and Hispanics, now live in chronic poverty and tend to reside in central cities and poorer
suburbs where mobility is restricted (Massey 2007). Leisure and recreation opportunities
in these areas are not only limited, but crime is a pervasive threat. Parents often confine and
76 • The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018)
restrict their children’s freedom of movement and play to protect them from crime and neg-
ative peer influences (Outley and Floyd 2002). Not surprisingly, children who grow up in
persistent poverty are often unable to acquire skills, knowledge, and appreciation of outdoor
recreation activities and national parks (Erickson, Johnson, and Kivel 2009).
Cultural factors and boundary maintenance. Cultural factors also account for low-
er levels of national park visitation among people of color. Sometimes called the ethnicity
hypothesis, the idea here is that differences in leisure participation and outdoor recreation
preferences among ethnic and racial groups stem from differences in cultural norms, value
systems, and socialization practices (Floyd and Stodolska 2014). Cultural factors provide
group members a template about the kinds of leisure and outdoor recreation behaviors to
which they ought to conform. In this regard, cultural factors both facilitate and constrain
participation in different leisure activities. Indeed, outdoor recreation activities and environ-
ments have varying cultural relevance to different groups of Americans. Washburne (1978)
is credited with introducing the ethnicity hypothesis to the literature in an effort to explain
what he called “under-utilization” of outdoor recreation areas among African Americans. He
observed that there may be “powerful forces within the community that discourage partici-
pation in ‘white’ activities” (p. 178). Central to this thesis is the idea that people participate
in leisure activities, at least in part, to sustain their ethnic and racial identity. To the extent
that members adhere to cultural norms, they engage in boundary maintenance, which is the
process of actively constructing and highlighting ethnic and/or racial differences (Gramann
and Allison 1999). Boundary maintenance insulates group members and prescribes which
leisure activities and venues are culturally relevant. People of color might not participate in
some outdoor recreation activities and avoid outdoor settings “because they do not reinforce
an ethnic group’s collective identity” (Floyd and Stodolska 2014: 13). Johnson and Bowker
(2004) noted that, unlike Whites, many African Americans do not view wildlands as “ther-
apeutic landscapes” that provide a respite from society ills. They went on to note, “for Afri-
can Americans these same terrains may be what cultural geographers refer to as ‘sick places’
which evoke horrible memories of toil, torture, and death” (p. 60). In sum, while cultural
factors provide opportunities for action, they also constrain outdoor recreation participation
and national park visitation by thwarting the development of leisure preferences that define
national park areas as relevant, appropriate, interesting, or available.
Discrimination and White racial frames. Lack of formative experience with outdoor
recreation activities and national parks reinforces the belief that these recreation amenities
and destinations are culturally irrelevant to people of color. The procurement of this belief is
linked to discriminatory and exclusionary practices in the past and present. Indeed, members
of dominant groups engage in boundary maintenance of their own which often results in their
resisting the inclusion or assimilation of outsiders.
Discriminatory and exclusionary practices go back generations and have long con-
strained people of color in their efforts to visit parks or engage in various forms of public
recreation. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many people of color were legally barred
from, or segregated at, public recreational sites, including national and state parks (Shumaker
2009; Lee and Scott 2016). Efforts to integrate recreation areas often resulted in physical
The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018) • 77
violence. Simultaneously, many conservationists who were instrumental in the establishment
of national parks expressed little interest in encouraging minority citizens’ visitation (Jordan
and Snow 1992).
The impact of racial discrimination on leisure and outdoor recreation participation in
contemporary America is well documented. Many people of color have noted that they rou-
tinely encounter acts of discrimination onsite or during their travels, which negatively impact
their enjoyment and subsequent behavior (Lee and Scott 2017). Discrimination by other
visitors is among the most frequently cited form of mistreatment, and may range from hostile
stares to physical attacks (Sharaievska, Stodolska, and Floyd 2014). People of color also note
that they have been the victims of discrimination from park and recreation workers. Profes-
sional staff may simply be inattentive to the needs and interests of people of color, which may
embolden other visitors to engage in acts of hostility (Fernandez and Witt 2013).
Other researchers have acknowledged a more nuanced relationship between discrimina-
tion and outdoor recreation among people of color. Discrimination may actually stem from a
variety of everyday interactions and unconscious assumptions (Young 1990) that are regard-
ed by employees and stakeholders as legitimate and fair. Inequality is perpetuated over time,
according to Scott (2014), by a variety of “practices and beliefs that are firmly embedded in
the normal, everyday functioning” of how park and recreation services do business (p. 47).
Although these practices are outwardly neutral, they “systematically reflect or perpetuate the
effects of preferential treatment in the past” (p. 48). For example, researchers have document-
ed that White managers of parks, forests, and wilderness areas often assume that the majority
of visitors are Whites, so interpretive exhibits and stories in these areas tend to predominant-
ly celebrate White Americans’ history and heritages (Taylor 2000). Stories and contributions
of people of color are often ignored or distorted (Loewen 1999; Lockhart 2006).
Central to the perpetuation of institutional bias is what Feagin (2013) called a White ra-
cial frame, which he defined as “an overarching white worldview that encompasses a broad
and persisting set of racial stereotypes, prejudices, ideologies, images, interpretations and
narratives, emotions, and reactions to language accents, as well as racialized inclinations to
discriminate” (p. 3). The idea here is that Americans routinely and often unconsciously view
White people and their behavior positively and represent the standard for evaluating what
is good and moral. In contrast, people of color and their behavior are regarded with suspi-
cion, stereotypes, and notoriety. A White racial frame permeates how Americans institutions
operate, including park and recreation delivery. Since its inception, the NPS has codified
appropriate behavior and ways of experiencing national parks that are rooted in 19th-centu-
ry White middle- and upper-class ideas about respectability and decorum (Cosgrove 1995;
Byrne and Wolch 2009). In a nutshell, national parks are to be used for education and in-
spiration. This view is reinforced by the media, including nature documentaries. Among
staff and many visitors, this translates into a form of enjoyment that gives primacy to quiet
contemplation of nature rather than noisy, active use of nature.
Throughout the United States, many public spaces are equated as White spaces. De-
spite civil rights laws that legally forbid the exclusion of people of color from public facilities,
many parks and public areas remain the province of Whites and off-limits, at least unoffi-
78 • The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018)
cially, to people of color. Austin (1997–1998) observed that many White Americans have a
proprietary attitude about the public places they occupy and rules for appropriate behavior.
People of color who venture into White spaces, including national parks, may be treated
rather coolly and, not surprisingly, feel unwelcome and remain on their guard (Carter 2008).
Moreover, their behavior in White spaces often comes under severe scrutiny. Leisure among
young African American males, in particular, is often viewed as pathological, disruptive, and
a major source of disturbance in public settings (Austin 1997–1998). This has led to no
small amount of racial profiling and monitoring in public parks and recreation areas. It can be
surmised that many people of color in the United States are constrained from more fully ac-
cessing a wider range of outdoor recreation activities and NPS areas because of the existence
of a firmly entrenched White racial frame.
A White racial frame makes it daunting for people of color to participate in outdoor
recreation activities and visit parks where they are in the minority. Mikhail Martin, a young
African American from Queens and co-founder of Brothers of Climbing, explained why so
few Blacks participate in rock climbing: “In the black community, there’s this misconception
that, ‘Oh, Black people don’t do that. Only White people do this.’ And they have every right
to believe that, because their outlet to the world is what you see on the TV and internet, and if
you don’t see any Black people, or any people of color climbing, you’re not going to think you
can do it” (REI 2017). J. Drew Lanham (2013), a serious birdwatcher and African American,
offered nine “rules” for African American birdwatchers. An abbreviated list is as follows:
• Be prepared to be confused with the other black birdwatcher.
• Carry your binoculars—and three forms of identification—at all times.
• Don’t bird in a hoodie.
• Nocturnal birding is a no-no.
Some White visitors are vociferous in their opposition to the NPS’s efforts to promote
ethnic and racial diversity in the national parks. The following letter to the editor, published
in National Parks magazine, blasted the NPS for what the writer regarded as a misguided
initiative: “Your recent article ... was way off target. To modify the National Park System to
lure ethnic minorities would be a disaster and one more facet of our country that would be
changed to please a few, ignoring the desires of the majority…. If minorities do not like going
to the parks, it is their loss. But please don’t let us be duped into thinking it is our loss. Many
of us look to the parks as an escape from the problems ethnic minorities create. Please don’t
modify our parks to destroy our oasis” (Lucier 1994: 6). Three other letters were published
along with this one and they too were critical of the NPS in its diversity efforts.
Despite NPS’s efforts to diversify its staff and create sites that reflect the history of all Amer-
icans, people of color are far less likely to visit many national parks compared with Whites
and they face formidable constraints to visitation. We have argued that non-visitation can be
boiled down to limited socioeconomic resources, cultural factors and boundary maintenance,
The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018) • 79
and discrimination and a White racial frame. These constraints limit visitation and the acqui-
sition of leisure preferences that define outdoor recreation and NPS destinations as culturally
relevant and appropriate. Is there anything the NPS can do to alleviate these constraints? We
believe that service provision for people of color can be improved by ensuring that programs
and facilities are affordable, accessible, culturally relevant, safe, and welcoming.
More specifically, we suggest that NPS initiatives and programs work toward ensur-
ing that younger generations of Americans, particularly youth of color, establish a long-term
relationship and gain in-depth experiences with national parks (Stanfield McCown 2011).
Moreover, NPS must work harder at recruiting individuals from more diverse backgrounds,
as nearly 80% of the NPS workforce is White (Partnership for Public Service 2018). Simulta-
neously, the agency needs to dissipate the conservative organizational culture that discourag-
es new ideas and creates barriers for promoting diversity and inclusion (Santucci et al. 2014).
A more inclusive workforce would give voice to the needs and constraints of people of color.
The biggest challenge facing NPS may be political. It is noteworthy that people of color
are far more likely to visit parks that are relevant to their historical and/or cultural heritage.
For example, data collected by VSP showed that Asian Americans comprised one-third of all
visitors to Manzanar National Historic Site, a unit that interprets the internment of Japanese
Americans during World War II (US Department of the Interior 2005). Likewise, Blacks
made up 17% of all visitors to Booker T. Washington National Monument, a historical park
established to honor the birthplace of one of the United States’ most prominent African
American educators and orators (National Park Service 1996). However, as we have noted,
many Whites regard national parks and other recreation areas as White spaces. They might
not want NPS and other agencies to highlight non-White legacies or reach out to minority
communities. Given the widespread antipathy many people of color encounter in everyday
life, NPS will need strong and influential allies and partners as they continue to seek to make
the agency relevant to more Americans. Without allies and political support, NPS’s effort
to diversity will stall, and many people of color will continue to encounter formidable con-
straints to visitation.
1. VSP studies were conducted on site at National Park Service units. Some VSP studies
collected information about the ethnic and racial background of visitors. We examined
hundreds of reports from 1982 to 2016 and found that 76 studies collected race/
ethnicity data. VSP reports can be obtained at
Austin, Regina. 1997–1998. “Not just for the fun of it!” Governmental restraints on Black
leisure, social inequality, and the privatization of public space. Southern California Law
Review 71: 667–714.
Bowser, Benjamin P. 2007. The Black Middle Class. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
80 • The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018)
Byrne, Jason, and Jennifer Wolch. 2009. Nature, race, and parks: Past research and future
directions for geographic research. Progress in Human Geography 33(6): 743–765.
Carter, Perry L. 2008. Coloured places and pigmented holidays: Racialized leisure travel.
Tourism Geographies 10(3): 265–284.
Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. 2014. Projections of the Size and Composition of
the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Current Population Reports P25-1143. Washington,
DC: US Census Bureau.
Cosgrove, Denis. 1995. Habitable earth: Wilderness, empire and race in America. In Wild
Ideas, David Rothenberg, ed. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Crawford, Duane W., and Geoffrey Godbey. 1987. Reconceptualizing barriers to family lei-
sure. Leisure Sciences 9(2): 119–127.
Gramann, James H. 1996. Ethnicity, Race, and Outdoor Recreation: A Review of Trends,
Policy, and Research. Miscellaneous Paper R-96-1. Vicksburg, MS: US Army Corps of
Erickson, Beth, Corey W. Johnson, and B. Dana Kivel. 2009. Rocky Mountain National Park:
History and culture as factors in African-American park visitation. Journal of Leisure
Research 41(4): 529–545.
Feagin, Joe R. 2013. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-
Framing. New York: Routledge.
Fernandez, Mariela, and Peter A. Witt. Attracting Hispanics to a public recreation center:
Examining intergroup tension and historical factors. Journal of Leisure Research 45(4):
Floyd, Myron F., and Monika Stodolska. 2014. Theoretical frameworks in leisure research
on race and ethnicity. In Race, Ethnicity and Leisure, Monika Stodolska, Kim J. Shinew,
Myron F. Floyd, and Gordon. J. Walker, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Gramann, James H., and Maria T. Allison. 1999. Ethnicity, race, and leisure. In Leisure Stud-
ies: Prospects for the Twenty-First Century, Edgar Lionel Jackson and Thomas L. Bur-
ton, eds. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
Hubbard, Jennifer, and Roger C. Mannell 2001. Testing competing models of the leisure
constraint negotiation process in a corporate employee recreation setting. Leisure Sci-
ences 23(3): 145–163.
Johnson, Cassandra Y., and J.M. Bowker. 2004. African-American wildland memories. Envi-
ronmental Ethics 26(1): 57–75.
Jordan, Charles, and Donald Snow. 1992. Diversification, minorities, and the mainstream
environmental movement. In Voices from the Environmental Movement: Perspectives for
a New Era, Donald Snow, ed. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Lanham, J. Drew. 2013. Nine rules for the Black birdwatcher. Orion Magazine. https://orion-
Lee, Kang Jae J., and David Scott. 2016. Bourdieu and African Americans’ park visitation:
The case of Cedar Hill State Park in Texas. Leisure Sciences 38(5): 424–440.
———. 2017. Racism and African Americans’ travel behavior: The utility of habitus and vi-
gnette technique. Journal of Travel Research, 56 (3): 381-392.
The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018) • 81
Lockhart, Matthew. A. 2006. “The trouble with wilderness” education in the National Park
Service: The case of the lost cattle mounts of Congaree. The Public Historian 28(2):
Loewen, James W. 1999. Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New
York: The New Press.
Louv, Richard. 2005. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit
Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Lucier, Guy. 1994. Letter to the editor. National Parks 6.
Massey, Douglas S. 2007. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New
York: The Russell Sage Foundation.
McCarville, Ron. 2008. The design of financial assistance programs: Suggestions from those
living in poverty. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 26(4): 157–168.
National Park Service. 1996. Booker T. Washington National Monument Visitor Study,
Summer 1995. Visitor Services Project Report no. 81.
Outley, Corliss W., and Myron F. Floyd. 2002. The home they live in: Inner city children’s
views on the influence of parenting strategies on their leisure behavior. Leisure Science
24(2): 161–179.
Partnership for Public Service. 2018. Race and Ethnicity by Agency and Subagency: Depart-
ment of the Interior, National Park Service.
REI [Recreational Equipment, Inc.]. 2017. REI Presents: Brothers of Climbing. Video.
Santucci, David C., Myron F. Floyd., Jason N. Bocarro, and Karla A. Henderson. 2014. Vis-
itor services staff perceptions of strategies to encourage diversity at two urban national
parks. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration 32(3): 15–28.
Scott, David. 2005. The relevance of constraints research to leisure service delivery. In Con-
straints to Leisure, Edgar L. Jackson, ed. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
———. 2013. Economic inequality, poverty, park and recreation delivery. Journal of Park and
Recreation Administration 31(4): 1–11.
———. 2014. Race, ethnicity and leisure services practice: Can we hope to escape the past?
In Race, Ethnicity and Leisure, Monika Stodolska, Kimberly J. Shinew, Myron F. Floyd,
and Gordon. J. Walker, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Sharaievska, Iryna, Monika Stodolska, and Myron F. Floyd. 2014. Discrimination in leisure
contexts. In Race, Ethnicity and Leisure, Monika Stodolska, Kimberly J. Shinew, Myron
F. Floyd, and Gordon. J. Walker, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Shinew, Kimberly J., and Myron F. Floyd. 2005. Racial inequality and constraints to leisure
in the Post-Civil Rights era: Toward an alternative framework. In Constraints to Leisure,
Edgar L. Jackson, ed. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
Shumaker, Susan. 2009. Untold Stories from America’s National Parks: Segregation in the
National Parks.
82 • The George Wright Forum • vol. 35 no. 1 (2018)
Stanfield McCown, Rebecca Estelle. 2011. Evaluation of National Park Service 21st century
relevancy initiatives: Case studies addressing racial ethnic diversity in the National Park
Service. PhD dissertation, University of Vermont.
Stodolska, Monika, and Kimberly J. Shinew. 2014. Leisure among Latino Americans. In
Race, Ethnicity and Leisure, Monika Stodolska, Kimberly J. Shinew, Myron F. Floyd,
and Gordon J. Walker, eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Taylor, Dorceta E. 2000. Meeting the challenge of wild land recreation management: Demo-
graphic shifts and social inequality. Journal of Leisure Research 32(1): 171–179.
Taylor, Patricia A., Burke D. Grandjean, and Bistra Anatchkova. 2011. National Park Service
Comprehensive Survey of the American Public 2008–2009: National Technical Report.
Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/SSD/NRR-2011/295. Fort Collins, CO: NPS.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2011. Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity 2010.
Report no. 1032.
US Census Bureau. 2012. U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slow Growing, Older, More
Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now.
US Department of the Interior. 2005. Manzanar National Historic Site Visitor Study, Sum-
mer 2004. Visitor Services Project Report no. 161.
Weber, Joe, and Selima Sultana. 2013. Why do so few minority people visit national parks?
Visitation and the accessibility of “America’s best idea. Annals of the Association of
American Geographers 103(3): 437–464.
White, Dave D. 2008. A structural model of leisure constraints negotiation in outdoor recre-
ation. Leisure Sciences 30(4): 342–359.
Wilkinson, Todd. 2000. The cultural challenge. National Parks (January–February): 20–23.
Young, Iris M. 1990. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer-
sity Press.
David Scott, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University,
College Station, TX 77843;
KangJae Jerry Lee, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Car-
olina State University, 4004B Biltmore Hall, Raleigh, NC 27513;
... For example, from the very beginning of the history of outdoor recreation in the U.S., White eugenicist conservation leaders had conceptualized and managed America's great outdoors as White Space, excluding people of color (Byrne & Wolch, 2009;Deluca & Demo, 2001;Lee et al., 2022;Mowatt, 2020). Moreover, generations of African Americans have endured historical racism, violence, and labor exploitation in nature such as slavery, lynching, and raping (Johnson & Bowker, 2004;Lee & Scott, 2016;Scott & Lee, 2018). ...
... Moreover, recent studies showed that there have been little changes in this racial and ethnic disparity in outdoor recreation (Resource Systems Group & Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, 2019; USDA Forest Service, 2019). Although several theoretical explanations for the paucity of Black outdoor recreationists have been put forth (Floyd & Stodolska, 2014;Scott & Lee, 2018), Floyd (1998) critiqued that the earlier explanations such as marginality hypothesis (e.g., limited economic resource) and ethnicity or subcultural hypothesis (e.g., cultural norms and value systems) were undergirded by erroneous assumptions that African Americans will exhibit the same behavioral patterns of Whites if they gain more disposable income or become more assimilated into White culture. ...
... More troubling is that hate crimes and criminalization against African Americans are still prevalent in outdoor contexts (Cleary, 2018;Floyd & Gramann, 1995;Hackett & Schwarzenbach, 2020;Lee & Scott, 2017;Philipp, 1998;Powell, 2021;West, 1989). This historical Black exclusion from outdoor recreation offers compelling explanations as to why many African Americans are not interested in or afraid of engaging in outdoor recreation activities (Johnson & Bowker, 2004;Lee & Scott, 2016;Scott & Lee, 2018;Virden & Walker, 1999). ...
Full-text available
Although outdoor recreation significantly contributes to subjective well-being (SWB), existing studies suggest that African Americans are far less likely to participate in outdoor recreation compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This study examined African Americans’ leisure involvement in outdoor recreation and its impact on leisure satisfaction and the affective components of SWB. The results showed that the Attraction and Identity Expression dimensions of leisure involvement not only positively affected leisure satisfaction but also indirectly contributed to SWB through leisure satisfaction. Moreover, Identity Affirmation had a significant direct effect on SWB. However, Centrality and Social Bonding had no significant association with leisure satisfaction and SWB. These findings revealed that pleasure and enjoyment derived from outdoor recreation, as well as opportunities to express one’s identity to the self and others, were particularly important for African American outdoor recreationists’ leisure satisfaction and SWB. Overall, the study findings are consistent with existing well-being and leisure literature.
... Hispanics, Blacks and Asians are more likely than whites to report safety of the outdoors as a barrier to spending time in nature, even though nature is highly valued across all racial groups (Kellert et al., 2017). Racial discrimination and policing of white boundaries has historically dispossessed or excluded people of color from public nature areas (Schelhas, 2002;Scott and Lee, 2018). Given the benefits of time in nature, these disparities could exacerbate income-and race-related health inequalities. ...
... We use this self-identification process as justification for classifying those who selected "Hispanic or Latino" as "non-white". We focus on the white/non-white dichotomy because it is the racial divide for which evidence suggests there might be the greatest differences in access to urban greenspace (Wolch et al., 2014;Rigolon, 2016), barriers to spending time in nature (Kellert et al., 2017;Scott and Lee, 2018) and experience during the pandemic (Gross et al., 2020;Andrasfay and Goldman, 2021;Karaca-Mandic et al., 2021). ...
... Future qualitative research could help illuminate the complexities between racial identity and preferences for and barriers to accessing nature (e.g., Maurer et al., 2021). Although our results do not allow us to say why we observe demographic differences in frequency of nature use before and during the pandemic, the observed racial and socioeconomic disparities echo results from other studies: non-white and low-income groups have fewer urban green spaces (Rigolon, 2016;Landau et al., 2020;Spotswood et al., 2021) and greater barriers to spending time in nature (Kellert et al., 2017;Scott and Lee, 2018). Regardless of preferences, these inequities mean that such groups are deprived the opportunity to capture nature's benefits to health and wellbeing. ...
Full-text available
Time in nature is associated with a range of physical and psychological benefits. These benefits tend to be unevenly distributed, with non-white and low-income communities often having lower access to nature than richer, more white neighborhoods. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in Spring 2020, changes in daily routines, restrictions on public nature access, and risk perceptions may have affected whether and how much people spent time in nature. We explore how nature access changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and how those changes were experienced by different demographic groups. We surveyed representative samples of California and New York residents ( n = 2,036) in May and June of 2020 and examined differences in nature access and nature-related COVID restrictions and risks by gender, income and race. We find that, on average, the pandemic was associated with reductions in frequency of nature access and less time in nature for all respondents. However, these trends were greatest for women, people of color and people who are low-income. Moreover, the pandemic seems to have widened prior inequalities: low-income and non-white people accessed nature even less frequently and had fewer nature access options than they did prior to the pandemic. Given the disparities in broader pandemic impacts by gender, income, and race, these results further demonstrate the inequalities laid bare by COVID-19.
... Today, campers remain largely white in the U.S. (78 percent; The Outdoor Foundation, 2017) and relatively wealthy-from 2014 to 2016 U.S. national park campers had an annual median household income $4,000 higher, on average, than the larger U.S. population (Walls et al., 2018). Because of these demographic discrepancies, U.S. national parks and other camping areas are often conceptualized as exclusionary spaces (Finney, 2010(Finney, , 2014More, 2002;Scott & Lee, 2018;Weber & Sultana, 2012). ...
... Skills such as effectively navigating competitive online reservation systems require experience and/or mentorship which have cultural ties and equity implications. Previous research has identified the exclusionary nature of parks and outdoor recreation activities coupled with socio-economic factors (i.e., place of residence and poverty) have created an environment in which many ethnic and racial groups have less access to institutional knowledge and skills related to outdoor recreation (e.g., Bixler et al., 2011;Edmonds, 2019;Scott & Lee, 2018). In the context of camping, campers with previous experience and greater expertise pay significantly more attention to the availability of locations when selecting a campsite (Gursoy & Chen, 2012). ...
... Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (Davis, 2019;Erickson et al., 2009;Scott & Lee, 2018;Weber & Sultana, 2012;Young, 2017), national parks are still largely romanticized for their role in American culture (Grebowicz, 2015), as popularized through Ken Burns' (2009) film The National Parks: America's Best Idea: ...
Full-text available Campsites represent highly sought after recreational amenities in the national parks of the United States. Equitable allocation of scarce recreational resources has long been a key management issue in U.S. national parks, but has become in- creasingly difficult in an era of increasing demand. At present, a growing number of national park campsites are allocated through an online reservation system well in advance of a camper’s arrival at a park. Compounding the challenge of allocat- ing these campsites is a long history of exclusivity within national park camping— institutionalized through campground design and predicated on a legacy of the leisure class’s affinity for camping in national parks. Given national park camping’s history of exclusivity, this exploratory study seeks to explore how online reserva- tion systems may impact the demographics of national park campers. Using mo- bile device location data, estimated demographics were calculated for campers in five national park campgrounds in the U.S. that each contained some sites requir- ing reservations and some sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. We detail results from analyses of variance between campsites requiring reservations and those that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Results suggest that for each of the five campgrounds, those campers camping in sites that require res- ervations came from areas with higher median household incomes, on average. In three of the five campgrounds, this difference was significant. Additionally, in an urban-proximate setting, those camping in sites requiring reservations came from areas with a higher portion of White residency than those campers in campsites not requiring reservations, on average. We conclude with discussion that includes management implications concerning the growing prominence of online reser- vation systems for outdoor recreation amenities, and a brief research agenda for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as they relate to campgrounds. Principally, the former group of implications includes the realization that online reservation systems present the unintended consequence of excluding low-income, and per- haps non-White, would-be campers—a conclusion drawn from the results of this exploratory study. This discussion includes an analysis of the distributive justice of online reservation systems.
... The topic of equity, including access to PCAs and full participation in decision-making related to such areas, is complex. Evidence spanning decades has shown that use of such areas is highly differentiated, with overrepresentation by an affluent, young, white, male, able-bodied population (Frumkin et al., 2017;Scott & Lee, 2018). Beyond explanations of underrepresentation associated with socio-economic limitations (a marginality hypothesis), much of the literature examining barriers to visitation faced by groups exposed to systemic inequities refers to the 'ethnicity' or 'subcultural' hypothesis (Stanfield et al., 2006). ...
... While the collection of such data must be approached with care, we were unable to locate intersectional visitor data for any Canadian PCA agency. By comparison, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) regularly reports on visitor demographics, race and ethnic diversity of visitors, enabling studies that have demonstrated the equity challenges of the parks system, including the fact that Hispanics and Asian Americans each comprised less than 5 per cent of visitors to national park sites surveyed, while less than 2 per cent of visitors were African American (Scott & Lee, 2018). ...
Full-text available
In this article, we outline progress and challenges in establishing effective health promotion tied to visitor experiences provided by protected and conserved areas in Canada. Despite an expanding global evidence base, case studies focused on aspects of health and well-being within Canada's protected and conserved areas remain limited. Data pertaining to motivations, barriers and experiences of visitors are often not collected by governing agencies and, if collected, are not made generally available or reported on. There is an obvious, large gap in research and action focused on the needs and rights of groups facing systemic barriers related to a variety of issues including, but not limited to, access, nature experiences, and needs with respect to health and well-being outcomes. Activation of programmes at the site level continue to grow, and Park Prescription programmes, as well as changes to the Accessible Canada Act, represent significant, positive examples of recent cross-sector policy integration. Evaluations of outcomes associated with HPHP programmes have not yet occurred but will be important to adapting interventions and informing cross-sector capacity building. We conclude by providing an overview of gaps in evidence and practice that, if addressed, can lead to more effective human health promotion vis-à-vis nature contact in protected and conserved areas in Canada.
... The authors recognized that citizen science proponents have done a poor job of engaging historically excluded groups, including women and individuals of lower socioeconomic status. Of note, these are groups that have also been disproportionately under represented as visitors in US national parks (Scott and Lee 2018). Wealthier, white, and retired US residents are more likely to participate in citizen science efforts than people of color and individuals in lowerincome brackets (NASEM 2018). ...
... It was not surprising that Caucasians were the largest racial group identified at BNF/SWA. Despite changing population demographics, data suggest that people of color do not visit national parks and outdoor recreation sites as frequently as Caucasians [15]. Caucasian visitors to BNF/SWA participated in several outdoor recreation activities such as horseback riding, hunting, shooting practice, camping, and fishing. ...
Full-text available
Like many other states in south-east USA, Alabama is blessed with a high percentage of natural areas. These areas support vital nature tourism and the outdoor recreation sector. This study was undertaken at the Bankhead National Forest (BNF) and Sipsey Wilderness Area (SWA), significant hubs for outdoor recreation in northwestern Alabama. The goal of this study was to collect baseline information that could be used to develop tools and strategies for increasing the diversity of users participating in outdoor recreation at BNF/SWA. A pretested questionnaire was administered to visitors at eight outdoor recreation sites in the BNF/SWA. Adults encountered at study locations were invited, after their visit, to participate in the study. The study found that (a) the majority of visitors to the BNF/SWA were Caucasians and the least encountered race was African American; (b) the most common reason for visiting BNF/SWA was for family outings, whereas activities with friends or coworkers were the second most important reason for visiting; (c) hiking (39.6%), camping (29.1%), picnicking (23.3%), and horseback riding (22.5%) were the most popular outdoor recreation activities pursued by visitors. It was concluded that a study aimed at identifying the constraints which negatively impact the use of the BNF/SWA by minorities should be a critical step in the process of trying to diversify the BNF/SWA’s user base. Increased efforts must be made to identify the reasons for the low usage of the BNF/SWA by minorities.
... In some instances, racial or cultural variance in visitation rates of protected areas is the result of historic prejudice, e.g., in the USA where the National Park Service was created while Jim Crow segregation laws were in full effect. This, combined with other compounding factors, such as historical targeting of park resources to white Americans, socioeconomic resources, and cultural factors results in people of colour not feeling comfortable with visiting protected areas and skewed demographics of visitors to parks (Taylor, 2000;Scott et al., 2018). Moreover, only recently have Indigenous people been involved in park management. ...
Full-text available
The widespread COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed many people’s ways of life. With the necessity of social distancing and lock downs across the United States, evidence shows more people engage in outdoor activities. With the utilization of location-based service (LBS) data, we seek to explore how visitation patterns to national parks changed among communities of color during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results show that visitation rates to national parks located closer than 347 km to individuals have increased amidst the pandemic, but the converse was demonstrated amongst parks located further than 347 km from individuals. More importantly, COVID-19 has adversely impacted visitation figures amongst non-white and Native American communities, with visitation volumes declining if these communities are situated further from national parks. Our results show disproportionately low-representations amongst national park visitors from these communities of color. African American communities display a particularly concerning trend whereby their visitation to national parks is substantially lower amongst communities closer to national parks.
The health and well-being benefits of nature contact are well known, but inequitably distributed across society. Focusing on the access needs of persons with a disability, the purpose of this study was to systematically examine research on the accessibility of nature-based tourism and recreation spaces outside of urban/community settings. Following a scoping review methodology, this study sought to examine policies, services, physical infrastructures, and regulatory standards intended to enable equitable use of nature-based settings by individuals of all ages and abilities, particularly persons with a disability. In total, 41 relevant studies were identified and analyzed. Findings indicate that there are considerable gaps in the provision of services and information that enable self-determination in the use and enjoyment of nature, and that accessibility in nature-based settings is conceptualized through three interrelated policy/design pathways: the adaptation pathway, the accommodation pathway, and the universal design pathway. As a whole, accessibility policy and standards research specific to natural settings outside of urban/community settings is highly limited. Management implications There are growing calls to promote inclusive nature experiences in tourism and recreation spaces outside of community settings. Management of such spaces must reconcile equity concerns with a host of other priorities like environmental conservation. In the case of promoting universal accessibility, few studies offer insight into the detailed standards that must be met to create barrier-free access, let alone how to integrate such standards with other management priorities. Transdisciplinary research partnerships that involve management personnel, environmental and public health researchers, and persons with a disability are needed to identify effective management synergies.
Scientifically significant sites are the source of, and long‐term repository for, considerable amounts of data—particularly in the natural sciences. However, the unique data practices of the researchers and resource managers at these sites have been relatively understudied. Through case studies of two scientifically significant sites (the hot springs at Yellowstone National Park and the fossil deposits at the La Brea Tar Pits), I developed rich descriptions of site‐based research and data curation, and high‐level data models of information classes needed to support integrative data reuse. Each framework treats the geospatial site and its changing natural characteristics as a distinct class of information; more commonly considered information classes such as observational and sampling data, and project metadata, are defined in relation to the site itself. This work contributes (a) case studies of the values and data needs for researchers and resource managers at scientifically significant sites, (b) an information framework to support integrative reuse at these sites, and (c) a discussion of data practices at scientifically significant sites.
Full-text available
This study investigated African Americans’ travel behavior using Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. In-depth and face-to-face interviews were conducted with 13 middle class African Americans. Vignette technique was used during the interviews. The study identified four salient themes: (1) racial discrimination during traveling, (2) storytelling and safety instructions, (3) fear of racism and its reproduction, and (4) race-related travel choices. The findings showed that informants’ strong fear of discrimination is manifested in their distinctive travel behavior. They affirmed that African Americans’ travel patterns need to be conceived as a defensive mechanism against potential racial discrimination. Implications for research methods and tourism management are discussed.
Full-text available
This study sought to explore (a) how the Milton Recreation Center (MRC) became racialized as an African American space, (b) the factors limiting Hispanic parents from enrolling their children at the MRC, and (c) African Americans' attitudes toward increasing Hispanic participation at the MRC. The study employed qualitative methods including participant interviews. Findings suggested that historical discrimination toward the African American population was responsible for the overrepresentation of African American users at the facility, which limited the number of Hispanic users as some Hispanic families held negative attitudes toward African Americans. Hispanics encountered other constraints including cultural differences and bullying. This study stresses the importance of extending the discussion of discrimination to include instances of both horizontal and historical discrimination.
Full-text available
This investigation examined experiences of the African-American population living in the Denver area about their visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park. Using qualitative semi-structured interviews with 36 participants, and archival techniques, the authors identify the historical and cultural factors that resulted in low use of the park by African-Americans. Consequently, the authors suggest the use of Bourdieu s "cultural capital" and "habitus" as mechanisms for assisting researchers and practitioners in better understanding and meeting the needs of marginalized people in the United States.
In 2008 and 2009 the National Park Service (NPS) conducted its second Comprehensive Survey of the American Public (CSAP2), a nationwide telephone survey consisting of 15-minute interviews with more than 4,000 respondents across the United States. Several questions contained in the first NPS comprehensive survey conducted in 2000 (CSAP1) were replicated in this second iteration. Both surveys obtained information on public attitudes and behaviors related to programs and services provided by the NPS, as well as on demographic characteristics of recent visitors and non-visitors to the National Park System. CSAP2 was designed, administered, and analyzed onbehalf of the NPS by the Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming. This technical report describes results from CSAP2 for the nation as a whole. For some questions, the report also compares responses between recent visitors and non-visitors and between residents in each of the seven NPS administrative regions. Highlights include: 1. Almost half (47%) of American adults responding to the survey could name a valid National Park System unit they had visited during the previous two years. Using this definition of recent visitation, the District of Columbia in the NPS National Capital Region recorded the highest percentage of visitors among its residents (71%), followed by the Alaska Region (60%). The lowest percentages of recent visitors lived in the Southeast (39%) and Midwest (41%) regions. [See the detailed tabulations for question Q6c in the main report, below.] 2. Recent visitors differed significantly from non-visitors in the type of vacation trips they preferred. Visitors more often said they liked trips to experience nature "a lot" (65% vs. 42%). Visitors also liked trips to see historical places or exhibits more than non-visitors did (51% vs. 38%). Conversely, visitors were less inclined than non-visitors to like trips to spas or resorts (27% vs. 40%). By smaller margins, recent visitors to NPS units were also less attracted to theme parks, out-oftown sporting events, cruise ships, and casinos [Q9]. 3. When recent visitors rated various experiences on their last visit to a national park unit, 68% said that viewing the sights of nature "added a lot" to their enjoyment. Other experiences adding a lot to the visit included seeing distant or unobstructed views (58%), getting away from the noise back home (57%), relaxing physically (56%), getting away from the bright lights back home (52%), and hearing the sounds of nature (50%) [Q11]. 4. Nationally, 70% of visitors reported viewing or photographing animals or plants during their most recent visit, while 60% said they had hiked or jogged at least 30 continuous minutes. Less commonly reported were water activities (20%) and snow sports (5%). Visitors living in the Pacific West (85%) or Alaska (83%) were most likely to have viewed or photographed animals and plants. The areas with the highest percentages of residents who hiked or jogged during their visit were the Pacific West Region (73%) and the Intermountain Region (65%) [Q14].5. On their most recent visit to any NPS site, 78% of visitors recalled viewing outdoor exhibits, 78% had read a park brochure, 73% went to a visitor center, 63% viewed indoor exhibits, and 51% talked informally with a ranger. While some of the services are not available at every NPS unit, those reported by less than half of all visitors included watching movies or videos about the site (39%), attending a ranger-led activity (35%), attending a cultural demonstration or performance (21%), and being involved with the Junior Ranger Program (4%) [Q15]. 6. When visitors who had used more than one of these services were asked which one added the most to enjoying their visit, the highest percentage chose viewing outdoor exhibits (22%), followed by attending a ranger-led activity (17%), talking informally with a ranger (13%), and going to the visitor center (12%) [Q15j].