Racial history may explain low park visitor rates for African-Americans

8 months 2 weeks 5 days ago July 07, 2016 Jul 7, 2016 Thursday, July 07 2016 Thursday, July 07, 2016 9:35:00 PM CDT in News
By: Kristen Reesor, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - All taxpayers pay for public parks to run, yet not all members of the public visit their national and state parks. According to the National Park Service, African-American park visitors are the most underrepresented group. One mid-Missouri researcher said the explanation may be centuries in the making.    

State parks in Missouri lack entrance fees, so staff do not always have personal interaction to keep track of visitors' races. But, some of Missouri State Parks' most recent research reports indicated the percentage of visitors who are black at certain parks varies from zero to 4 percent. Around 12 percent of Missourians are black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

KangJae "Jerry" Lee, a researcher and assistant teaching professor in MU's parks, recreation and tourism department, recently wrote a study identifying a possible reason why African-Americans visit parks in such low numbers. It involves the effect United States' racial history had and still has on African-Americans. 

"Many African-Americans' parents didn't enjoy outdoor recreational activities because they were not able to visit them," Lee said. 

Lee said the history of segregation and Jim Crow laws at public facilities deterred older generations from visiting state parks. Even though those exclusionary practices are now outlawed, Lee said black Americans may hold on to the cultural disposition to this day because it has been, perhaps subconsciously, passed down within families through socialization.

"We can't expect people to do something that their parents or grandparents didn't do," he said.

Shana White said she jogs at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park around three times a week. She's black and said her parents never pushed her to visit state parks or enjoy the outdoors.

"I'm not an outdoorsy person in the first place and neither is my family, and honestly the black families that I do know, I mean, they're not ones to be like 'Let's go to the park,' so maybe that's embedded in us," White said.

Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, said the agency has tried to create opportunities for people to enjoy the parks even if they were not exposed to parks before.

"We provide equipment and expert instruction to help people have experiences that maybe they didn't have growing up in their family," Bryan said.

Missouri State Parks identified "appealing to youth audiences, underserved clienteles and decision-makers" as an objective in its 2013-2017 strategic plan. Bryan said staff did not have a set benchmark in mind aside from encouraging all Missourians to visit the state parks.

Bryan said the Missouri State Parks also formed a diversity action committee in 2013 to seek input on methods to grow visitation numbers.

"We have increased over the past several years our use of digital and social media," Bryan said. "We can reach everybody that way."

While an online presence may attract a lot of people to the parks, White said the state park service can encourage more black people to visit through direct contact with them.

"Promote towards us," she said. "Promote to the actual community, because I don't feel like I see anything about people in the community."

Bryan said several state parks and historic sites explore African-American history. He said Arrow Rock State Historic Site is one, and it's about an hour away from Columbia.

"That's a site that I think people don't really know the African-American history of, but we're doing the best we can to tell that history there," he said.

Lee said it will take time to change this culture, but park agencies can start by focusing their attention on African-American children.   

"If we had these African-American kids exposed to natural environments and teach them how to appreciate and enjoy these recreational resources, statistically, it's more likely that they will revisit those places once they grow up," Lee said.

Missouri State Parks has partnered with schools in the past through programs like Children in Nature and the Walking School Bus at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. 

Appreciating nature may not be all people are missing when they don't go to parks. Lee said African-Americans may be missing out on social and health benefits, too. Numerous studies have shown spending time outside can lead to better sleep, lower blood pressure and decreased risk for depression. Lee said going to parks as a family can also improve social bonds.

Lee said underrepresentation is also a matter of social justice.

"If this type of resource is not equally accessed by the general public, we are basically using tax dollars to please only small groups of people," Lee said. 

Lee's study concentrated on a state park in Texas, so he said his findings may not apply broadly to every state or state park.

 

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - A Columbia man was arrested Sunday evening on suspicion of first-degree burglary. CPD officers were dispatched to... More >>
10 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 10:28:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - Columbia police arrested a man Sunday morning after he allegedly shot multiple rounds from his gun near the... More >>
14 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 7:25:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
COLUMBIA Updated 7:05 p.m. - The Columbia Police Department said a second victim in the Sunday shooting on I-70 Drive... More >>
17 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 4:18:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - During his time as athletic director at the University of Missouri Mike Alden oversaw a little bit of... More >>
18 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:35:00 PM CDT in Sports
ST. LOUIS (AP) — About 1,000 of St. Louis' delinquent properties are expected to face the wrecking ball to create... More >>
20 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 1:13:10 PM CDT in News
OZARK, Mo . (AP) — A southwestern Missouri man is accused of sexual misconduct involving a teenager who investigators say... More >>
21 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 12:20:00 PM CDT in Continuous News
FORSYTH, Mo . (AP) — Authorities said a southern Missouri man told investigators he was either sleepwalking or dreaming when... More >>
23 hours ago March 26, 2017 Mar 26, 2017 Sunday, March 26 2017 Sunday, March 26, 2017 10:25:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Officers said a suspect is on the run after a robbery at an Extended Stay America Saturday night.... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:39:11 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A hearing for Sturgeon Police Chief Greg Halderman will take place on Monday. On the week of... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 7:16:00 PM CDT in News
LINN - State Technical College in Linn opened up its campus to recruit prospective students and to show off what... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 4:49:00 PM CDT in News
UPDATED 3/26/17 7:46 p.m. The Boone County Fire Protection District is no longer leading the search. KOMU has... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 4:37:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Two men each are jailed on $750,000 bond after being accused in connection with the St.... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 3:38:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Two semi trucks and two cars were part of a wreck Saturday that closed westbound I-70. The... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 3:23:00 PM CDT in Top Stories
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Republican-led Missouri Legislature will get back to a business-friendly agenda when it returns from... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 12:35:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis man has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:54:00 AM CDT in News
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — An activist who helped shut down a St. Louis-area freeway during protests commemorating the first anniversary... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:45:00 AM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police say a 15-year-old boy was killed and six other people were critically wounded... More >>
1 day ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:41:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – A group of local artists hosted a fundraiser Friday night, giving people people the chance to view works... More >>
2 days ago March 25, 2017 Mar 25, 2017 Saturday, March 25 2017 Saturday, March 25, 2017 5:40:00 AM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 50°
10am 50°
11am 51°
12pm 52°
1pm 53°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

7:00a
Today
11:00a
Rachael Ray
12:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Noon
9:00a
The Steve Wilkos Show
10:00a
Jerry Springer
11:00a
Jerry Springer

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
The Voice
9:01p
Taken
7:00p
Supergirl
8:00p
Jane the Virgin
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld