A walk with Vive Northwest near Vancouver, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo by Matthew Helmer.
Public land managers are eager to welcome diverse populations to national forests, parks, and monuments. Current information about user preferences, desired features, and existing barriers to accessibility is essential so recreation managers can plan accordingly. In the 1990s and early 2000s, research on recreation patterns and preferences by Latinx (a gender neutral Latino/Latina) recreationists found an emphasis on large multigenerational groups, day use, food preparation, and family games. This information shaped recreation planning for the past 20 years. Planners are now in need of updated information to continue meeting the needs of a diverse and growing population.
Lee Cerveny, a research social scientist with the station, and her colleagues partnered with Vive Northwest, an urban Latinx outdoor networking group, to conduct three focus groups in Portland, Oregon, among Latinx participants from multiple nationalities and generations. The focus groups explored the diversity of Latinx outdoor interests, desired sites and settings, barriers to accessing the outdoors, and strategies for overcoming these barriers.
Speaking with Latinx outdoor visitors in a major metropolitan area revealed a much broader interest in active outdoor experiences compared to the recreation research conducted 20 years ago. Latinx visitors were interested in a wide range of recreation activities, including hiking, viewing waterfalls, relaxing, and visiting nature centers. The top new activities visitors wanted to try included snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and mountaineering. Most participants also reported that while they recreated in well-developed, easily accessible locations close to major highways, they were interested in exploring more backcountry and wilderness areas.
When asked about barriers to recreation, focus group participants said that not knowing where to go and not having accurate, site-specific information kept them from recreating in forests and on other public land. They most often relied on personal recommendations. Participants indicated that having information in Spanish would help Latinx visitors evaluate which sites and activities would be appropriate and safe for their families.
Recreation planners on public lands can use this updated information about current generations of Latinx forest users, their ideas about nature and the outdoors, and desired recreation activities to address the barriers to outdoor opportunities on forests and to direct outreach and programming to reach Latinx communities.