Black to the Park™

Black to the Park™ is our initiative focused on increasing Black visitorship to our nation’s National Parks and to Washington State Parks. The project seeks to address existing barriers to Black enjoyment and usage of our National and Washington State parks, grow visitorship, and tell the stories of Black joy and discovery in these spaces. Obstacles and impediments to visitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of information about park resources
  • Concerns about safety
  • Lack of transportation
  • Cost of entry and travel
  • Lack of representation (not seeing park staff or visitors who like like us)
  • Lack of our history being shared and available at parks
  • Not feeling welcome in the space
  • Generational and historical trauma
  • Lack of skills for adventuring
  • Perceived and historical institutional and systemic racism

Fewer than 6% of Blacks visit National Parks and fewer than 2% visit Washington State Parks even though African Americans currently make up approximately 14% of the U.S. population.

In an excerpt from People of Color and Their Constraints to National Parks Visitation:

“Despite this population change, existing data suggests that people of color visit national parks far less than Whites. Using data from a national survey, Taylor, Grandjean, and Anatchkova (2011) reported that 53% of non-Hispanic Whites polled could name a national park they had visited in the last two years. In contrast, only 32% of Hispanics and 28% of Blacks reported they could do so. Data collected by the National Park Service (NPS) Visitor Services Project (VSP) substantiate that people of color represent a comparatively small fraction of national park visitors. Hispanics and Asian Americans each comprised less than 5% of visitors to national park sites surveyed, while less than 2% of visitors were African Americans. Critics within and outside NPS recognize that its long-term survival depends on making its parks more welcoming and relevant to constituents and a changing population (Wilkinson 2000).”

The graphics of demographic data below reflect 12 months of overnight visitor survey results gained from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. This includes almost 40,000 responses. Note: not all respondents answered all questions. Overnight visits represent approximately 5% of overall visitation at Washington State Parks. Day use visitors represent the majority of overall visitation. We received this data on April 4, 2022.

The Bronze Chapter’s goal is to secure funding to purchase and disburse America The Beautiful National Park passes and Washington State Discover Passes and track recipients’ adventures, discoveries, and learnings throughout the pass year. By amplifying the experiences of Blacks in our National and State Parks we can increase representation. You can support this initiative by:

  • Letting us know about grant opportunities
  • Helping us apply for grants
  • Adding The Bronze Chapter to corporate matching databases
  • Through personal and donor advised fund donations

The National Park System encompasses 423 national park sites in the United States. They span across more than 84 million acres with parks in each state and extending into the territories including parks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. There are three National Parks in the State of Washington.

MOUNT RAINIER (TAHOMA) NATIONAL PARK

Encompassing 236,381 acres, Mount Rainier National Park was established on March 2, 1899. This is 17 years before the National Park Service was created in 1916. Mount Rainier, at 14,410 feet, in all her glory, is located about 86 miles southeast of Seattle. Sunrise is the highest point in the park reachable by car at 6,400 feet from which visitors can admire Rainier and other nearby volcanoes, including Mount Adams. At 5,400 feet, Paradise offers mountain views, summertime wildflower meadows, hiking trailheads, and winter snowshoe adventures. Several Native American tribes called the mountain variations of Tacoma or Tahoma, which means “the source of nourishment from the many streams coming from the slopes.” Captain George Vancouver sailed into Puget Sound in 1792 and named the mountain after his friend Peter Rainier, who served as a Royal Navy officer in the Revolutionary War.

Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S. The highest mountain in the northwestern Cascade Range, Mount Rainier has 25 named glaciers that adorn the mountain, the most of any mountain in the continental United States. Emmons Glacier covers the largest area of any glacier in the contiguous 48 states, stretching more than four miles. Hikers can follow the glacier to the peak as it spans from the White River Valley to the summit of the mountain. Mount Rainier’s glaciers provide an essential water source for six ice-cold rivers.

The Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Yakama and Cowlitz all maintain relations with the park. Archaeological evidence traces indigenous use of this region back 9,000 years. For years, the park has reserved special areas for Native American rituals and worship providing spiritual and cultural resources to the current generations, linking today’s tribal members to their ancestors who lived in the shadow of the mountain for millennia.

Mount Rainier’s trails connect hikers with nature. The park includes a hugely complex ecosystem producing diverse beauty and vegetation. The 93- mile long Wonderland Trail was used over 100 years ago by patrol officers and firefighters and was the first trail in the park that fully encircled Mount Rainier. It’s one of many trail options. The park offers over 260 miles of maintained trails for your enjoyment with some ranging from a few miles to over 20 miles. John Muir (naturalist and preservationist) and Bailey Willis (U.S. Geological Survey worker) led the charge to designate Mount Rainier a national park because of its unique beauty.

Learn more about Mount Rainier’s glaciers.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

Established on June 29, 1938, Olympic National Park spans 922,650 acres along Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The park sprawls across several different ecosystems, from the dramatic peaks of the Olympic Mountains to old-growth forests. The summit of glacier-clad Mt. Olympus is popular with climbers, and hiking and backpacking trails cut through the park’s rainforests and along its Pacific coastline.

Olympic National Park the best example of intact and protected temperate rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. Known for the diversity of its distinct ecosystems – the rugged pacific coastline, massive glacier-clad peaks, a temperate rainforest on the west side that receives 150 inches of rainfall annually (considered to be one of the wettest areas in the continental U.S.), and an old growth forest with a much drier climate to the east. Eleven major river systems drain from the Olympic Mountains, offering some of the best habitat for fish species in the country. The Park includes 62 miles of wilderness coastline, the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States, and is rich in native and endemic animal and plant species.

The Olympic Peninsula’s forests were originally designated as the Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897, Olympic National Monument in 1909, and then Olympic National Park in 1938. On October 1, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Lake Quinault Lodge during a fact-finding trip. During his visit, the topic of establishing a park came up over lunch. Nine months later Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park, which to this day remains a treasure countless visitors continue to enjoy. It wasn’t until decades later that the government and UNESCO would step in to legally protect the land. In 1976 the park was declared an International Biosphere Reserve and in 1981 Olympic National Park became a World Heritage site. Olympic National Park provides three distinct ecosystems – glaciated mountains, rugged Pacific coastline, and lush temperate forests – and their distinct flora and fauna for nature-lovers to explore. Over 95% of the park is designated wilderness, protecting one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48, giving visitors the opportunity to experience remoteness and pristine nature in a way that few other places can.

The 73-mile long coastline has rocky headlands, sandy beaches, thriving tidepools, erosion-formed offshore sea stacks, that provide habitats to marine and intertidal wildlife. The diverse forest communities making up the park provide homes to everything from acid-loving wild cranberry bushes to giant spruce trees, hundreds of years old. The towering mountain ranges created by tectonic collision are topped with ancient glaciers. The neighboring ecosystems give visitors of Olympic National Park an opportunity to see sea otters, whales, beavers, bears, rhinoceros auklets, golden eagles, and more. The park is also home to endemic species like the Olympic marmot and the Olympic torrent salamander that can be found nowhere else in the world.

Learn about how the National Park Foundation is working to connect Native American youth to National Parks.

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK

On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill that created the 504,654 acre North Cascades National Park – a vast wilderness of conifer-clad mountains, glaciers, and lakes – located approximately 107 miles northeast of Seattle. The North Cascades Highway passes viewpoints and lead to numerous hiking trails, Ross and Diablo Lakes. The remote community of Stehekin lies at the northern tip of deep Lake Chelan. The park shelters grizzly bears and gray wolves, plus more than 200 bird species.

The northern portion of the Cascades Mountains is a land of dramatic elevation changes. While some other mountain ranges might be taller, older, or more biologically diversified, few could be more charismatic than the North Cascades. With peaks that rear 7,000 feet above the valleys and soar to as much as 10,000 feet, this area is often called the American Alps. The North Cascades landscape is incredibly rugged, largely because glaciers sculpted and scoured valleys, peaks, and numberless rock fingers and faces. North Cascades still has about 300 glaciers, the greatest concentration of any national park outside of Alaska.

WASHINGTON STATE PARKS

In addition to Washington State’s three National Parks, there are 124 State Parks, Historical State Parks, Marine State Parks, and State Park Trails. These parks comprise almost 114,000 acres. Additionally, there are a number of State Park Heritage Sites, Conservation Areas, and Properties — land holdings adding up to almost 138,000 acres. Black to the Park™ is our stepping stone to increase Black visitorship and amplify Black voices in Washington State Parks.

Informational Resources

Learn about the history of this park and Contested Terrain of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex: An Administrative History.

Learn more about North Cascades National Park – Forty Years on the Map, Seventy Years in the Making.