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Public Parks and Sno-Parks Help Diverse Populations in California’s Central Valley Negotiate Constraints to Winter Recreation

Jason W. Whiting, Lincoln R. Larson, Christopher Greenwood, Samuel Lankford


As current racial and ethnic minority groups make up increasingly larger percentages of the U.S. population, recreation managers seek to understand their recreational needs and preferences. One area has received little attention: the winter recreation participation of non-White individuals (especially Latinxs). In this study, we sought to (1) examine demographic differences in constraints to visiting a conventional winter recreation destination, China Peak Mountain Resort (CPMR); and (2) explore winter recreation site use among demographically diverse populations in various types of public parks around CPMR in Fresno County, CA, including sno-parks (sites that provide snow-cleared parking lots with sanitation facilities and access to snow play areas, cross-country ski and snowmobile trails). Data were gathered “onsite” (n=491) at sno-parks along Highway 168 and “offsite” (n=1318) in communities across the Central Valley. Data from the two sites revealed significant differences in winter recreation constraints and site use patterns among different racial/ethnic and income groups. Racial and ethnic minorities and respondents with lower household income reported high levels of constraints to participation in winter recreation at CPMR. Overall, structural constraints were the most prominent barriers affecting visitation to CPMR. Our findings showed that all respondents were more likely to visit public lands (e.g., sno-parks) for winter recreation than CPMR. Public parks and sno-parks may provide particularly unique and valuable opportunities for Latinx residents and individuals from low-income groups who are historically underrepresented with respect to winter recreation in California’s Central Valley. Overall, our results yield two key conclusions regarding winter recreation: (1) commercial resort managers (e.g., CPMR) should seek ways to minimize existing structural and cultural barriers to visitation, thereby attracting a more diverse clientele; and (2) providers should consider public lands such as sno-parks as key alternatives for diverse residents seeking winter recreation experiences—especially non-White and lowincome populations who rarely visit private mountain resorts.

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Winter recreation; constraints; Latinx; California; sno-parks; parks

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