Road trip! One family’s concerns, support for national parks

The "Four Stops, One Destination" tour takes (from left) Ted, Luke, Maite, Noah and Jonathan 950 miles this week, to see firsthand how four national parks could be affected by oil and gas development. Courtesy Hispanic Access Foundation.

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s not just a vacation – it’s an adventure for one family traveling through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico this week.

The family of Maite Arce is on a mission to discover national parks and monuments this summer, and to encourage other Hispanic families to join them. Along the way, Arce said, she, her husband and sons are looking closely at what they’ve heard is going on with the oil and gas boom in these areas.

They started the trip this weekend at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. They chose these parks because they are threatened by oil and gas development, said Arce.

“We want to see how it’s impacting our visit there; how close is it? Because we’re very concerned that it’s too close for comfort, and maybe not necessary,” she said, “and something that our community needs to know, that we could help to address.”

Polling shows that while Latinos have high regard for the environment and the national park system, only 9 percent actually visit the parks. Like other folks, Arce said, they often work too hard to take time off. But she said they’re also more likely to go if they know someone who can recommend it.

“‘Really – you’re going to go? Well, if you’re going to go, then we could go!’ It’s almost that we have the tendency to say, ‘Well, we’d like to see someone go first.’ And then once we go, the word spreads,” Arce said.

This week also is a final family road trip before sending their oldest son off to college. Arce said they’ve tried to instill a love of the outdoors in their children – and have seen the benefits.

“It’s really helped to shape who they are,” she said. “They’re healthy, they’re happy, they’re physically fit, they’re very active. For the Latino community, we feel it’s a great way to help our kids just stay healthy, and then make a difference for our environment.”

After Dinosaur National Monument, they’ll head to Utah’s Arches National Park, then on to Mesa Verde in Colorado and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Like many modern families, they’ll be blogging and tweeting along the way for the Hispanic Access Foundation, where Arce is president.

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