We’ve Got a Park for That!

I had the pleasure of participating in a Hidden Stories conference from the California Parks Foundation, which focused on the history and connections of Latinos with California State Parks.

The conference was a highly informative, packed, and engaging experience—very welcoming and validating of the Latino stories and contribution to California history and the development and connections of those stories with various state parks in California. There were many speakers and academics who had plenty to share—from the development of Latino barrios in LA, the disappearance of the Californios, the hidden stories of mujeres, and the ways that Latinos have left a mark in current parks, while acknowledging the multicultural connections that existed with other communities.

Overall, an experience that left me wanting more.

Extending from that were some discussions of how work like this helps with the present and future connections of Latino communities with the state parks system. One key component is to know and validate the Latino histories that are already there, including the stories yet to uncover. But in addition to that is the idea of how to keep making current cultural connections, to create more stories of present Latino communities and validate the current experiences and needs. To that end there were a series of breakout session to think about that could happen with media, outreach, education, and other approaches.

I participated in the media session, hoping to connect with others in how they approach and think about marketing and media outreach to connects with Latino audiences. There was a lot of good discussion, which should result in some good work in the months and years to come. But specifically there was one idea that I really liked and wanted to help develop—a phrase and approach to include and validate the needs and experiences of a wide array of Latino communities. It’s “We’ve Got a Park for That!”

The connecting ideas come from “there’s an app for that” and “got milk?”—Two phrases that worked for their respective campaigns and made us think of “there’s a park for that” and “got park?”. But adding the “We’ve” helps to highlight the diversity of parks in the California Parks State system—and how that is an opportunity to engage the diversity of communities in California.

With that in mind, I developed these two “draft photo-text overlays” to hint at how the parks system can help meet the needs of Latino communities. Yes, first you need to do the work and identify the needs. Then work to close the gaps and see how the park in your community helps with those needs.

One seemingly humorous example is the “quinceañera photo shoot”. I say seemingly humorous, but for a community where this practice is common, the photo shoot is a key component of the event and there is shared community knowledge about which natural areas are the best for the photos. Do you know if your park is used for that—or if it is not, then would it be a great way to introduce your park to the Latino community? There may be opportunities to explore there.

So what activities and experiences may be connecting for the Latino community in your area? There should be several, to which you can reply “We’ve Got a Park for That!”

“Parques para todo, parques para todos”—Parks for everything, parks for everyone



Thank you to the CA Parks Foundation, our media breakout group, and Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve Education Coordinator Anne Marie Tipton. 

One response to “We’ve Got a Park for That!

  1. Jose- Great article and great idea too! Friends and former CA State Park colleagues who also attended the recent Hidden Stories conference sponsored by the CSPF and CA State Parks in LA have also said that they too enjoyed the high-quality presenters, engaging participants and the “hidden” stories shared. As a former CA State Park Ranger/Park Superintendent, I was a strong advocate (while oftentimes a lonely voice) for pressing CA State Parks, its staff and volunteers to prepare State Parks for the changes now occurring in California’s changing demographics. Insomuch as our department was formed around a Eurocentric model for environmental protection with an organizational structure similar to that of the National Park System (military organizational structure), change was always a big deal and always a difficult challenge. In keeping with your concept of “We’ve Got A Park For That!”, in 1979 I served as the relief ranger for Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier, CA. As rookies, we were all required to work weekends, so I missed many family celebrations including birthdays, a few weddings and anniversary parties too. While working at Pio Pico, my wife and I decided that it would be the perfect place to hold our son’s baptismal celebration! During the day, I was able to provide family members, friends and visitors with a behind the scenes tour of the mansion once owned by the last Governor of Mexican California. And later that afternoon, my family and I were able to enjoy a wonderful family celebration with all the traditions of a Latino potluck baptism party!

    As CA State Parks looks toward the future, a key to maintaining its relevance and value by all residents, including Latino’s — will be its ability to adjust and be flexible. Park rules prohibiting loud music, commercial photography, carrying capacity in picnic areas and organized games will need to be modified in many parks before new park users will feel welcomed and included. As funds become available for picnic areas and campgrounds to be remodeled or retrofitted to meet new ADA standards, park designers should include more group areas that are designed for use by more than one or two families, church or organized groups too.

    While the idea of identifying State Parks where Latinos and other residents might enjoy recreating, socializing and celebrating together as families is a terrific idea, preparing State Parks and its staff for these changes is a necessary first step. Lastly, I encourage all residents, but especially Latinos — to become active CA State Park volunteers and docents. CA State Parks belong to all Californian’s, so it’s important that we all become part of the solution for protecting, maintaining and interpreting their stories too!

    Richard Rojas Sr.
    Goleta, CA

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