A memo from National Parks Director Jonathan B. Jarvis shares:
“On October 29 and November 1, Oprah Winfrey will devote two entire shows to her overnight camping trip in Yosemite National Park earlier this month. Ms. Winfrey’s visit originated with a letter of invitation from Park Ranger Shelton Johnson. While in the park, Shelton shared his Buffalo Soldierpersona – Elizy Bowman – at an evening campfire chat with Ms. Winfrey and others staying at the Lower Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley.
While the shows highlight Ms. Winfrey’s visit to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Tunnel View, her mule ride, and fly fishing on the Merced River, she also raises the question of why there aren’t more visitors of color in national parks.
We all struggle with this question – and what to do about it.
Ms. Winfrey’s visit and the popularity of her show offer the National Park Service an unprecedented opportunity to reach a vast audience of potential first-time visitors and to start a conversation with them.
Coming on the heels of Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary, these broadcasts promise to take the national parks to heights of visibility rarely seen before, particularly in mass media and pop culture.
At the national level, we are working with the Yosemite staff to create opportunities to leverage the broadcasts and deliver a National Park Service invitation to visit the soon-to-be 393 national parks and learn about these places owned by all Americans.
I encourage all of you to use this opportunity to reach out to your communities. For example, you could host viewing parties with the show as a discussion starter on how to increase the diversity of our visitors or hold “how-to” events over the weekend of October 30-31 to teach the basics of hiking, camping, and visiting for first-timers.
WATCH VIDEO PREVIEW
While we literally had years to prepare for the America’s Best Idea broadcast, there is now little more than a week to prepare for these episodes that will reach more than 30 million viewers and millions more through Oprah.com.
I am confident that our innovative and creative employees will rise to the occasion and create immediate opportunities for all Americans to connect with the national park idea.”
The Outdoor Afro community is all aflutter about this news, as a major goal of this site is about changing perceptions of who engages with the outdoors. It is especially important that women of color be shown engaging with natural spaces in a positive context, so that others can see the possibility and benefits of building a relationship with treasures such as our national parks — which belong to everyone.
We hope this won’t be the last time we see Oprah camping! Can’t wait to hear your comments about the show!