Park official seeking more black visitors

Aug. 9, 2009 at 3:16 PM

MARIPOSA, Calif., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A Yosemite National Park official says he would like to see more blacks visit U.S. parks to help them improve their connection to nature.

Shelton Johnson, an interpretive specialist at Yosemite, said the apparent lack of interest in parks by the black population of the United States may have to do with his minority group's unfortunate history, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

"It's bigger than just African-Americans not visiting national parks. It's a disassociation from the natural world," said Johnson, who is black. "I think it is, in part, a memory of the horrible things that were done to us in rural America."

Less than 1 percent of Yosemite visitors each year are black and Johnson, 51, feels celebrities that appeal to the black community could help draw in increased black visitors.

"All Snoop Dogg has to do is go camping in Yosemite and it would change the world," he told the Chronicle, referring to the popular rapper. "If Oprah Winfrey went on a road trip to the national parks, it would do more than I have done in my whole career."

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