When President Barack Obama hiked Cadillac Mountain with his family in 2010, he made news not only because he was the first sitting president to visit Acadia National Park, but also because it’s uncommon to see African Americans and other minorities in this country’s national parks.
When Dr. Amanda McCoy, 29, and Dr. Kristin Alves, 28, both orthopedic residents at Harvard, took a trip to Acadia for the first time last month, they caught the sunrise over Cadillac and hiked the Beehive, Gorham, South Bubble and the Ladder Trail, but they also noticed the lack of diversity in other visitors to the park.
When Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe columnist and co-author of a new book,
“Project Puffin”, and his wife honeymooned in Acadia more than 30 years ago, and went there on 2 other vacations, they enjoyed the challenging hikes and bird watching, but also lamented not seeing other African Americans on the trails.
“The thing my wife and I wish we would see more of” is African-American families “truly hiking, truly backpacking. That part is really, really white,” said Jackson, who’s also hit the trails in Yosemite, Death Valley, Great Smoky Mountains and other national parks, and written about them.
The lack of diversity in Acadia and elsewhere in the national park system, both in visitors and employees, has been a persistent issue, prompting studies to understand why, and initiatives to bring more people of color into the 59 national parks and nearly 350 other national park system units, from seashores to historic sites.
A 2011 report, “The National Park Service Comprehensive Survey of the American Public,” found African Americans the most “under-represented” visitor group, with Hispanic Americans not too far behind. The “2014 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government®” survey ranks the National Park Service 261st out of 314 agencies when it comes to support for diversity.
With the Centennial year coming up in 2016 for both Acadia and the National Park Service, and America’s population and workforce more diverse than ever, those aren’t exactly welcome statistics. Efforts to address the glaring disparity have stepped up.
This weekend, coinciding with National Trails Day(R), marks the 3rd annual African American National Parks Event, to encourage African Americans and other minorities to visit a national park unit, take a photo and post it on Facebook or other social media. Last month, the Acadia National Parks Community Facebook page posted a series of articles about the need to diversify both national park visitors and employees. Continue reading