In the past five years, state and county parks in the Washington Metropolitan Area have seen a huge shift in demographics in their park visitorship from traditional “hikers and bikers” to increased populations of Latin American origin or descent, or “Latinx.”
With these shifts came change in how visitors use public lands and the need to adapt to new user groups. In 2015, the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office (NPS) identified the needs of the 80 percent Latinx community at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland, through a visitor use study conducted by an intern from Hispanic Access Foundation.
While Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is working to improve facilities for increased usership at parks and provide programming through the Es Mi Parque program, NPS and Chesapeake Conservancy identified the need for more outreach to the diverse populations visiting Sandy Point as an opportunity to educate about stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay.
In the summer of 2019, we had a successful pilot of a bilingual Spanish outreach and engagement program at Sandy Point funded by NPS. We know that translating signs and materials into Spanish is not enough. We need to make the extra effort to meet the community where they are and develop programming that meets their needs. In order to accomplish these goals, we recruited through Spanish departments at local colleges and community resource centers for the Latinx community and hired two bilingual interpretive outreach assistants who were stationed at Sandy Point to develop programming to better engage the Latinx community.
They developed innovative and engaging programs for the Latinx community and helped the park connect to visitors in new ways. Not only did they provided translation and support for fishing, kayaking, and nature programs, they also developed creative programs like “Pintando la Bahía”—a painting program on the beach—“Historias en Español” storytime, and “Música Reciclada,” a music program using recycled materials as instruments.
We look forward to this program again in the summer of 2020 as we continue to engage a more diverse community of conservation stewards of the Chesapeake.