If Karl Hess has his way, the nation's parks will become less commercial, less crowded and pricier, as visitors are asked to pay the true costs of operating the parks.
But raising entrance fees could run
directly into another priority: the Park Service's desire to
attract more minorities. In a story by reporter Frank Clifford in
the Nov. 25 Los Angeles Times, National Park Service Director Roger
Kennedy said that if parks can't attract a representative
cross-section of America, they risk losing taxpayer support for the
agency's $1.5 billion annual budget.
the parks' almost 300 million annual visitors are Native Americans,
African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos. A Park Service
survey showed that minorities make up 7 percent of all visitors
although they are 25 percent of all
Even the 93 percent of visitors who
are Anglo are not representative. Half had household incomes of
$40,000 or more a year. Many of the poorer visitors are local
people, rather than Americans coming from East and West coasts to
remote places such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and
Gary Machlis, a Park Service sociologist
reporting on a survey of 20,000 visitors at 60 parks, said, "If it
weren't for a handful of urban parks, the national park system
would be white and elitist."