Maite Arce, the president of Hispanic Access Foundation, took a 950-mile trek to four national parks. She and her family visited Arches National Park on July 16 and 17. Shown here from left to right are Arce, her husband Ted Argleben, their son Noah, Arches Ranger Mark Miller, and Arce's other son Luke. [Photo courtesy Hispanic Access Foundation]

Maite Arce, the president of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), and her family visited Arches National Park on July 16 and 17.

Arches was one stop on a trip called “Four Stops, One Destination” that covered 950 miles. It began with Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, continued to Arches National Park, then to Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park and ended at Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico. Joining Arce was her husband Ted, sons Luke and Noah, and family friend Jonathan.

While attendance to national parks has been on the decline, a campaign from HAF is looking to engage Latinos in order to boost turnout and to protect these treasures from oil and gas development for future generations. Arce and her family will complete a 950-mile tour of four national parks and share their journey along the way through a video blog and social media.

“This campaign introduces Latinos to new destinations and shows them how accessible, secure and enjoyable they can be,” said Arce. “And the timing is imperative as each of the four parks is under some level of threat from oil and gas development.”

HAF hopes increased attendance and awareness about threats to these national treasures, such as oil and gas development, pollution and water shortage will encourage Latinos to take an active role in protecting these natural wonders for future generations.

“We’re looking to put conservation on equal ground with oil and gas drilling,” said Arce. “If we don’t have a balanced approach to energy development, future generations will not be able to enjoy the beauty of these parks as they stand today. And it will be that much more difficult to attract Latinos, and other communities for that matter, to these parks.”

Only 9 percent of the nation’s approximately 54 million Latinos now visit our country’s national parks each year, according the American Latino Heritage Fund. While reasons for this may vary from transportation to concerns about safety, HAF has found that awareness is one of the biggest barriers to entry.

“Latinos are extremely passionate about their local parks, but we need to translate that enthusiasm to our national park system. By bringing more families into the parks, we’re working to secure these destinations for the future,” said Arce. “While more visitors equates to more park funds, there’s more to it than just the numbers. With Latinos, their passion for the outdoors underscores the roles they can play in the preservation of these natural landmarks.”