According to Nelson, "The national parks attracted a record 292.8 million visitors in 2014, but a vast majority were white and aging. The most recent survey commissioned by the park service on visitation, released in 2011, found that 22 percent of visitors were minorities, though they make up some 37 percent of the population.
"This suggests an alarming disconnect," he writes.
Nelson believes that white people are, at least in part, to blame. "Carla DeRise has been to Mount Rainier and other parks, and is game to go again," Nelson details. "She just can’t get any of her friends to come along. They are worried about unfriendly white people, hungry critters and insects, and unforgiving landscapes, said Ms. DeRise."
Minorities don't feel welcome in parks, Nelson continues. To that end, "We need to demolish the notion that the national parks and the rest of nature are an exclusive club where minorities are unwelcome.
"The place to start is the National Park Service," he continues. "About 80 percent of park service employees in 2014 were white. The parks’ official charity, the National Park Foundation, has four minority members on its 22-person board."
In the end, Mr. Nelson concludes, "I hope the National Park Service and its partners are listening."