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

1 year 2 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, July 07 2016 Jul 7, 2016 Thursday, July 07, 2016 9:35:00 PM CDT July 07, 2016 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
FULTON- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) says America needs to have a bigger debate on the country's current foreign policy. ... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 3:29:00 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A private Catholic school for girls in Kansas City says it has disciplined a group of... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 3:23:16 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Some mid-Missouri residents who know what it's like to live through a horrific natural disaster have some advice... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 2:37:00 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A Missouri congressman has heightened security to his office after a shooting at a congressional baseball practice... More >>
2 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 2:01:00 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
MOBERLY- Moberly Fire Department firefighters dropped down 8 feet underground Thursday to rescue two mock victims. “It’s a little... More >>
3 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 12:45:00 PM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on demonstrations following the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer (all times... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 11:49:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - President Trump publicized his support this week for the replacement of the Affordable Care Act with the Graham-Cassidy... More >>
5 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 10:54:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
PLATTE CITY (AP) — Jurors have convicted a Kansas City, Kansas, man of first-degree murder for being an accomplice in... More >>
5 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 10:45:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on demonstrations after the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer (all times... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 10:24:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS — There have been more fatal police shootings in St. Louis in 2017 than for a decade —... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 9:35:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Home Instead Senior Care in Columbia is set to host a day of education: Alzheimer's Learning Day. ... More >>
13 hours ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 Thursday, September 21, 2017 2:53:00 AM CDT September 21, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Veterans living in the Patriot Place apartments will now have room to take their four-legged friends and their... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 7:22:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri has received a grant from the American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation to... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:55:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A man has been charged in the killing of an off-duty police officer at a restaurant... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:55:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to end on Sept. 30. The program... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:33:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Hasbro and Missouri UnitedHealthcare developed a wristband that can help reduce child obesity while getting kids up... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:32:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police could be wearing body cameras within 60 to 90 days. After a... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 6:02:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
OSAGE BEACH - A firefighter was hospitalized with heat exhaustion after responding to a condo building fire Wednesday at 9:54... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, September 20 2017 Sep 20, 2017 Wednesday, September 20, 2017 5:53:00 PM CDT September 20, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 91°
5pm 92°
6pm 90°
7pm 87°
8pm 84°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

4:00p
Jeopardy!
4:30p
Jeopardy!
5:00p
KOMU 8 News @ 5
4:00p
The Goldbergs
4:30p
The Goldbergs
5:00p
American Dad!

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
American Ninja Warrior
9:00p
Chicago Fire
7:00p
Penn & Teller: Fool Us
8:00p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
8:30p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld