FAMILY

Free national park program not used by families of color

Apr 6, 2022, 1:56 PM

Arches is looking for input from the public to solve an over crowding issue as park attendance has risen 73 percent in the last decade.(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah — The Every Kid Outdoors program helps give families with fourth graders easy access to public lands like Arches National Park for free. The main goal is to equalize access to public lands regardless of income, race, or ethnic group.

In a recent study from BYU, professors found an increase of families visiting public parks because of the program. That said, there is still room for improvement. 

Spending time outdoors as a family can help build bonds between parents and children. Additionally, being in natural spaces is a big benefactor to improving mental health, and reducing stress. 

“Families have opportunities to grow close together, for parents to pay attention to children, it’s really important for relational building,” said Jocelyn Wikle, an assistant professor of family studies at BYU.

Data on national park family visit survey 

Professors looked at data from American Time Use Survey that included over 5,000 family responses. A comparison of families using national parks before and after implementing the program was made. 

Data found that families with fourth graders hiking on any given day increased several times. A significant increase that greatly affects family dynamics and behavior. 

“…there might be additional barriers that are keeping some families from taking advantage of this opportunity,” Wikle said. 

Wikle said in a recent interview that research shows giving free admission was helpful for higher income families and white families. That said, the program proves to be less helpful for families of color and low income.

She also said that previous research on similar topics shows that time and cost of transportation could play a role in these results. 

Moving forward, BYU professors plan to take a closer look at ways to address the differences in demographic responses to the program. They hope to find better ways to ensure every child has access to national parks for free. 

Becky Bruce contributed to this report.

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Free national park program not used by families of color