America’s great white outdoors

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports on U.S. national parks facing an existential crisis over a lack of diversity among visitors.
8:19 | 07/02/20

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Transcript for America’s great white outdoors
America's national parks and public lands have long been places of refuge in times of turmoil. But new government data first shared with ABC news shows people of color are less likely to take advantage of the great outdoors. Our Devin Dwyer takes a look at why that is and why it's so important for our collective health and the future of the parks themselves. This sweeping vistas stir the soul wildlife and waterfalls but we get a sense of wonder. The American wilderness a playground for old and for young. And overwhelmingly. White when you look around until seeing people that you identify where. You don't feel welcome you feel out of place you feel. Live Chile. Like you are an Al site there. And green Tarek is founder of brown people camped when she was eight years old her family moved from India to Minnesota where she fell in love with the outdoors. Twenty years later she still astonished not to see more people like her. Some people might say isn't this just that people color don't like to camp now and to that I would save. Well right that's a general aviation and dear just because something isn't happening or the presence of someone is missing does not mean they don't wanna be there. To many Americans of color parks campgrounds in forest land or stubborn bastions of self segregation. The real problem are removed. And you are on hold on. Low. Salt butter. You are or. That was 1995. When frank and art repeater men took their first road trip to explore the nation's natural wonders. The history of America's wilderness loomed large. Are. Already. Are. Racism was a factor at the founding of America's national parks created in part to be an escape for white urban elites. Several were racially segregated into the 1950s. Many considered un inviting to people of color into the 1990s. We had an inheritance here we do because of our history not glint in Sydney's normal. Rural places where we're not sure. That will be except it. Lord gave the self described outdoor Z diva blogs about her experiences as a woman of color in the wilderness it's kind so. When you don't see it in marketing and advertising for wine in the psyche you don't necessarily think. This is some and that formally we. Have to be responsive. To those needs. The National Park Service says the persistent whiteness of its 419 parks is an exit stand shall crisis. David Bell is the first Latino to lead the agency. Do you think the parks are affected by systemic racism. I think dead. As a person of color. I think that our national parks and what I've found their places where we can learn more about. What happened in the past. Because that reflects our speaking today. In a report for shared with ABC news the park service finds 77%. Of its visitors are white just 23%. Or people of color. A minorities make up 42%. The US population what's the biggest factor behind the disparity. I think it's going to very. Among communities of color. That the dove lack of transportation opportunities is clearly going to be a factor but what a lot of folks and understand is that. Were closer than what you think. Especially in the urban areas. I a the national parks have tried more giving to minority communities with ads like feast. Training staff for insensitivity. And hiring more Rangers from diverse backgrounds. Less than 20% of the 20000. Park service employees are non white. You need to have that Colton personally reflected on both sides of the visitors and her desk. At the NH. Brown's. Ranger Shelton Johnson has pushed diversity in the parks for twenty years. Teaching countless visitors to Yosemite California about the buffalo soldiers. He African Americans who helped protect Parkland a century ago. That has a profound impact they're not expecting that story at all sat April oh. I think that's just wonderful in 2010 his outreach got a boost when Oprah Winfrey wanted to go camping. I just said to myself you know I don't Dodi powerful and if should the world's biggest celebrity who. African American is you'd be the invitation. To the African American community that their owner's dream when I was a kid you'd be in. It was Oprah. Next question. Nobody but many see progress is still not happening quickly enough. If we don't address this and we don't see how all these things are in a related. Then we're we we're gonna risk losing everything we're not gonna have public fans enjoyed. Groups like the Sierra Club have begun education campaigns within minority communities to promote access to nature and its physical and mental health benefits. If you look at it from a humanitarian. Perspective. This is these are matters of life and death for some people we need to have a conversation about. Power people getting out stores and connect human nature where they live in their neighborhoods where it. All the recent events would George Foy Domata robbery the Central Park incidents are shining a light going. Black people in particular but other people could don't have that freedom to have that experience but. You're somebody kind of police and you you worried about how being negative in her actions. Based solely on what color to your skin. Danielle Williams a fourth generation US army veteran and outdoor advocate. Says racial profiling in stereotyping. Remain major concerns. A lot of Sweden's. Ingrid same message over Hoover served for years and for some people I'm here I am bet people how. Elite and listening. Protests for racial equality after the death of George fluid last month Steve Williams hope that attitudes can change. She says the outdoors it means openness to campaign options beyond backpacks and tents we had to kind of on down the elitism. And just think about our language who talk about the outdoors because cart can't being that's pretty wrecked and being your backyard Q lit. Now that's so wonder folk. The survival of our national parks may depend on those families and their interest in spending time there. The census projects people of color will be a majority in America by 2044. A demographic shift that would impact park attendance and finances. If we go make ourselves relevant to current and future generations. Who is going to be the advocates. For the protection and preservation. Of our nation's. Public lands and who's gonna Wear these uniforms our values aren't good at chains but how we do business has to. Advocates say analyze of people of color have a big part to play what can I do as a white person to be more welcoming the somebody I've collar. There are the most they think things you can do what of the things I always talk about is when you see someone. Smile and say hi. Sri because as you eluded in any other person man and CE you know China really hard. Says while it that question. Let British air alone the same thing that brings you here. The Peterman say progress is possible this tremendous. And aren't aren't. After visits to 185. Parks in 47 states. They're optimistic more families of color will be joining them in the outdoors. Laurie. Who chayet Auburn air. You'll want to know that story. Caught and now there's so much confusion about your real American story. You would find him in the next hour fox. For ABC news lie I'm Devin Dwyer in Rock Creek Park.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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