Missing African-American Visitors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Authors: Selima Sultana*, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Topics: Ethnic Geography, Environmental Perception, Recreational and Sport Geography
Keywords: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Visitation, Under-representation, African-American population
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Palladian, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This research is designed to better understand African American interest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and reasons for both visiting and not visiting GSMNP. Despite the close geographic proximity of large African-American populations to GSMNP African Americans comprise less than 1% of visitors of this park. These visitor numbers are only marginally greater than African American visitation levels recorded in 1938, a time when park facilities were segregated. Under-representation of minorities challenges the view that national parks reflect the central values of American culture and that public land is open to all. While existing park visitation surveys provide information about visitors, they do not provide reasons for either visiting or not visiting a park. Additionally, the data collected by the park service is only based on visitors who visit the parks, not the surrounding population. Therefore, minority voices and perspectives are missing in our knowledge about why people visit parks. This proposed research builds on these visitor surveys by conducting open-ended surveys with the African American population in nearby large cities. These surveys will help identify the factors that account for visitation of the park by local residents and will be compared to conditions within GSMNP to identify any issues affecting attendance. This research will use a quantitative and qualitative mixed method analysis.

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