Outdoor Afro Builds Community, a Key to Surviving Disaster


Huffington Post
Audrey Peterman

The national parks and the public lands system have provided me with a community wider than I can describe. I’m as likely to run into a park ranger friend in Alaska as in South Florida. I do not ever want these treasured assets to become cheapened or commercialized as the proposals in Director Jon Jarvis’ Directors Order 21 would inevitably lead to. Among other things, the order requires staff to raise funds to maintain our parks, loosens the rules on “donor recognition,” and lifts restrictions on naming rights in our parks.

While thousands of Americans objected to the order in the limited public comment ending in May, the Park Service has yet to release their final proposal, effectively freezing the public out of the process. With the Service’s reputation taking a hit this year with multiple scandals, we are basically being asked to trust that the leadership will make the right decision. (Responding to my inquiry, Director Jarvis said “What you may have read by our critics is way wrong….” I informed him that I came to my conclusion by reading the Order.) The recent closure of the Blue Ridge Parkway to film a Subaru commercial gives us an inkling of what’s to come.

So I am heartened to learn that the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a Freedom of Information Act forcing the Park Service to release public comments. I am very concerned by what will happen to our parks in the future if we allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Nature shows our commonality as one human species. We need our Congressionally and Presidentially protected national parks to be places of respite where we can get to know and love ourselves as Outdoor Afros are doing. Then we can build and expand our communities by cutting through the artificial lines of race and culture that we have created.

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