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January 04, 2005

Park says patrons are wrong color

In England, Lake District National Park officials have announced plans to end free guided walks carried out by more than 100 volunteer rangers, The Daily Telegraph reports, “because they attract only ‘middle-aged, middle-class white people.’ ”

The Telegraph headline for this one reads, “Lakeland walkers ‘wrong colour’ .”

The scenic walks, which introduce thousands of tourists to the fells each year, are being scrapped as part of a three-year plan to bring more ethnic minorities, inner-city children and the disabled to the area.

Derek Tunstall, a Lake District National Park volunteer ranger: ‘We do this for the love of the fells’

The national park’s authority said it would be able to meet Government targets to attract minority groups and attract more funding.

It said it had also taken the “hard” decision to reduce significantly the services provided by the park’s 10 information centres.

Among activities facing the axe is a programme of 900 events run by 300 rangers. These include a magazine, informative talks, slide shows and children’s farm visits.

The decision has “astounded” volunteers who give up their time to carry out the walks.

They say the authority is obsessed with hitting targets and that the move smacks of political correctness.

We are, of course, astonished at how anyone might even think political correctness was behind this decision. And cor blimey, why should anyone be concerned if a bunch of unwanted white patrons get injured because the guides won’t be along to keep them from harm?

They also say that thousands of novice walkers among the 12 million tourists who visit the park every year could now be put in danger on unfamiliar terrain.

In a letter informing volunteers of the authority's decision, Paul Tiplady, national park officer, said more regional and EU funding would be attracted by refocusing on the “urban young, people from ethnic communities and disabled people”.

Mick Casey, a spokesman for the authority, said 30,000 people used the events programme and 4,500 took part in the walks each year.

“Our research shows that the majority who do the walks are white middle-class, middle-aged people.

“The Government is encouraging national parks to appeal to young people, to ethnic minorities and to people with disabilities.

“It is saying we ought to focus our activities on these kinds of groups.”

Mr Casey said the authority had no plans to replace the rangers and the events system.

Which raises the question, who will guide the handicapped visitors, to stave off any harm on unfamiliar terrain? And if this terrain is in fact so dangerous, then won’t it be terribly expensive to install handicapped-accessible means for these patrons to enjoy all park facilities — presuming any are still left after the cutbacks?

Posted by Weaselteeth at January 4, 2005 10:57 AM