The undersigned diverse allies have written to the Director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis, to support and strengthen the forthcoming Strategic Plan for Healthy Parks Healthy People US, as summarized below.
We thank Director Jarvis for leading the Healthy Parks Healthy People US initiative, including convening the meeting at the Institute for the Golden Gate at Fort Baker in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in April 2011. We applaud the National Park Service for embracing the diverse values at stake in park lands. This includes in the words of a current draft plan: (1) democratizing clean air, clean water and outdoor enjoyment for the health and inspiration of all people; (2) healthy participation and encouraging participation by people of diverse backgrounds and different demographics; and (3) equitable access to open spaces and natural places. We hope the final plan will maintain this focus and explicitly address issues of equity and the important role that national parks play in the health of all, including people of color and low-income populations.
Promoting health and well-being are primary benefits of national parks. Consequently, the draft discusses statistical evidence of the importance of parks to improve human health. We encourage the National Park Service to look even deeper and to explicitly address the fact that people of color and low-income populations still face disparities regarding health and access to parks, as discussed in the letter.
These concerns underlie the fact that access to national parks, and the associated health benefits parks can provide, are both a social justice and civil rights issue. The Department of the Interior and National Park Service should affirmatively address proactive compliance with equal justice laws and principles, including the 1994 President’s Order 12898 on Environmental Justice, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, which guarantee equal access to public resources.
Our national parks can also serve to get unemployed and underemployed people back to work, to strengthen the economy, and to build worker’s own feelings of confidence and self-worth. We are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with record unemployment rates. Latinos and African Americans have been the worst hit by joblessness and drops in median wealth. Programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, including local green jobs and apprenticeships that would lead to careers based on the diverse values at stake in conservation, would enable people to be outdoors and physically active and healthy while providing service to their country and earning a pay check. Moreover, increasing visitation to national parks would benefit a wide range of businesses outside the parks.
Programs like Transit to Trails can serve multiple goals of improving access to national parks and promoting health, particularly for urban populations and people who are currently underrepresented in parks. The National Park Service should have national programs like like Transit to Trails and FamCamp, and not depend only on local supervisors to implement such programs.
We encourage the National Park Service to explicitly address equity in park access and health in the final Healthy Parks Healthy People US Strategic Action Plan. With the National Park Service Centennial celebration around the corner, this is an opportune time to augment the content of this strategy, thereby increasing the potential for a truly just Plan that will result in action.
Dr. Robert Bullard, Director, Environmental Justice Resource Center, Clark Atlanta University
Benny Diaz, California State Director, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens)
Ruth Galanter, Visiting Scholar, Urban Ecology, Loyola Marymount University
Robert García, Executive Director and Counsel, The City Project
Rue Mapp, Founder, Outdoor Afro
Carmen Rita Nevarez, MD, MPH, Medical Director and Vice President of External Relations, Public Health Institute
Audrey Peterman, President, Earthwise Productions, Inc.
Brent Plater, Executive Director, Wild Equity Institute
John J. Reynolds, Retired Deputy Director, National Park Service
Dr. Nina Roberts, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
Don Rodriguez, Ph.D., Chair, Environmental Science and Resource Management Program, California State University Channel Islands
Jack K. Shu, Park Superintendent (Ret.), California State Parks, Office of Community Involvement
Chad M. Silva, JD, Statewide Policy Analyst, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Eric G. Strauss, Ph.D., President’s Professor of Biology, Seaver College of Science & Engineering, Loyola Marymount University
Seth H. Strongin, Assistant Director for Policy and Research, The City Project
Mark Williams, Youth Director, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles
Read the letter to the National Park Service on Healthy Parks Healthy People for All.
Fort Baker, Golden Gate National Recreation Area