Integrating the great outdoors


Wait, is something keeping them out? Maybe they just don’t want to go?

Please read the interview, which is with a black woman who explains how societal expectations made her feel unwelcome in wilderness settings.

I don’t know about National Parks, but at the State Parks here in Minnesota I see an interesting thing. The State Park that is in the city has tons of people of color there all the time. All the regular parks and trails near my house have a lot more people of color using them than white folks. Get to the outstate parks, and it is almost all white. One often hears about how one of the minority groups in Minnesota who are very active in hunting and fishing don’t know or understand “the rules,” some real and some imagined. To me, it is clear it isn’t that different ethnic/racial groups don’t want the things that the parks offer, but that there is some sort of barrier to their use.

Here’s another factor: it costs money to take time off work, unless you’re salaried. It costs money to travel to a national park. It costs money to buy camping gear. The great outdoors is a middle-class experience.


Pfft. That is total baloney. Disney World is a middle class experience. Camping, hiking, fishing, and picnics are the poor person’s Disney.

Unless you live in one of the dryer states out west, just about everyone is easily within an hour from a lake. It doesn’t have to be a National Park. There are ton of state and city lakes. Fishing and a picnic for a day is CHEAP. Most states kids under a certain age fish for free. In state fishing licenses are a penitence. Walking around or having a picnic is free. Some places have actual trails and what not laid out. Missouri has some some awesome caves.

Simple camping gear is not that expensive. It used to be you could get surplus army tents cheap, but now you can get a decent tent or $20-30 at Walmart. Splurge and get an air mattress. A few chairs and some Off and you’re on your way.

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Ms. Finney can feel this way all she wants but it wont change the data in the survey she cherry picks.

The real reason according to the participants in the survey is:
#1 Geography- The majority of National Parks in the US are located in areas where the population is mostly white.

#2 Lifestyle- “African American visitors were the most likely to view outdoor exhibits or park movies and to participate in cultural demonstrations or ranger-led tours.” on the flip side they were least likely to participate in Hiking or jogging for 30 continuous minutes.

All from the same 2011 survey commissioned by the National Park Service mentioned in the interview:

The question should be why do black folks dislike Hiking or jogging?

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Five days in Disney for a family of four with hotel and airfare will set you back five grand. Most middle class families (or what passes for middle class today) can’t swing that.

  1. You can swing Disney on way less than $1000 day. They made $2.2 BILLION on their parks last year, so more than just the upper crust are going there.

  2. You missed the whole point of my post completely that enjoying the parks and outdoors was very inexpensive.

A friend worked at a Fresh Air Fund summer camp for mostly African-American inner-city girls. Their experience with being out in “nature” was largely confined to the northern half of Central Park. I don’t know how much of that was due to poverty and how much was due to hiking in the woods not being a big part of urban black culture, but I’m pretty sure the two factors are intertwined. Yes, going to a national (or state!) park is cheaper than Disneyland or Vail, but if your parents never went camping as a vacation activity (because their parents never did,) it might just never occur to them as a thing to do. “So we rent a car and go drive three hours to the woods… Then what? Walk around and look at the trees? What the hell for?” The mission of the Fresh Air Fund, as I understand it, is in part to answer that question.

I thought Disney was the imagination-poor person’s outdoors.

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