National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program

Value Added

Kimble Talley and her family sit on a bench in Harpers Ferry.
My family wants to see themselves in parks.
They are my inspiration.

I’ve been watching the new series Flipping the Block.

I just love home improvement shows. On this show there are four teams of two. One team is made up of sisters. They're two African American women from Louisiana. When the network was promoting the show I immediately noticed the team. As an African American I quickly notice this sort of thing. So this new show had two variables working in its favor: DIY/home improvement and these black women who encouraged me to add the date the show would air to my calendar and tune in.

I was recently in training and helping to facilitate a discussion around “non-visitors.” Who are your non-visitors and why aren’t they visiting your national park? There was a very rich discussion on how we could define “non-visitor,” but it seemed that there was a small disconnect on why they may not visit and how to know what they might need to get them there.

I shared that as a person who visits parks often, if I don't quickly “see” a connection or relevance to myself, my heritage, who I am as a person, I tend to be quickly disengaged and often find myself looking for the exit.  Someone suggested that visitors have a responsibility to work harder to make their own connections.

My reaction to this is: Why? Why should visitors have to assume the burden? Visitors have many choices when it comes to how they spend their leisure or discretionary time and if they do not start seeing the relevance right away—they might not stick around.

As I watched Flipping the Block, I noticed I was cheering for the team of sisters and I hoped they would win the challenge.

I am a person who is self-aware. So by the end of the first episode, I also noticed I wanted to know more about the other people who made up the other teams. As I got to know them, I cheered for them as well. For me, the sisters got me to watch and, as a result, I wanted to learn more about everyone who made up the show.  Having the sisters on the show was the first step in getting me "tuned in," but the diversity and personality of the other teams kept me interested.

The National Park Service can no longer assume that just because we see parks as national treasures that the public has the same perspective.

The NPS can learn something from how media markets and sustains their viewership. It’s not, just telling the same traditional stories in the same traditional formats and then hoping that non-traditional visitors will automatically be inspired. Parks must find the stories of the non-visitors so they can see themselves in the resource. When they do arrive and find themselves they will learn to care for and seek out ways to become stewards. As the NPS draws closer to the centennial, this connection is one step of many that will allow non-visitors to find their park.