Equity in Access to Outdoor Recreation – Informing a Sustainable Future.


How to cite this study

Winter, P.L., Crano, W.D., Basáñez, T. and Lamb, C.S. 2019. Equity in access to outdoor recreation—Informing a sustainable future. Sustainability 12(1), 124.


Residents in four large metropolitan areas in California were interviewed by phone to determine differences in outdoor recreation participation in national forests by ethnoracial groups, age, and gender. The researchers found that the most listed constraint to participation among all groups was a lack of time, though minority respondents were more likely to list resource-related constraints such as lack of money and transportation.


Though responses are specific to residents in California, this study is relevant to those interested in equitable access to outdoor recreation and public lands in general. Those in land management may find these results useful in designing outreach programs to engage historically marginalized groups. Additionally, as the Internet is cited as the most trusted and most used resource regarding outdoor recreation, communication through the Internet may be more effective for outreach programs compared to other platforms like radio or newspaper.


The sample is from metropolitical statistical areas (MSAs) in California. The regions are: Region 1 Inland Empire (Riverside–San Bernardino–Ontario), Region 2 Southern Sierras (Bakersfield–Delano, Visalia–Porterville, Hanford–Corcoran, Fresno, Madera–Chowchilla, Merced, and Modesto), and Region 3 Northern Sierras (Stockton, Sacramento–Arden–Arcade–Roseville, Yuba City, Chico, and Redding).

Trail Type

This study uses data collected from phone interviews to assess visitation patterns across demographic groups to trails and other amenities in U.S. national forests.


This study was conducted to determine whether the inequities in national forest visitation persist and the reasons behind differing visitation levels by ethnoracial groups. The U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station provided funding for this study.


  • Out of the 309 respondents who had never visited a national forest, 258 (83%) gave specific reasons for their lack of visitation that were listed by other respondents: 106 responses (41%) were a lack of time including work, school, or family responsibilities, 35 responses (13%) were a lack of money, 27 responses (10.4%) were a lack of interest, 23 responses (8.9%) were distance to the forest, 18 responses (7.1%) were lack of information, and 17 responses (6.5%) were lack of transportation. 
  • Across ethnoracial groups, time was listed as the primary constraint, though resource-related constraints like money and transportation were more often listed by minority respondents than White/Caucasian respondents. After the primary constraint of time, White/Caucasian responses cited age/health-related constraints as the second most common constraint. 
  • The internet was reported as the most frequently used resource for information about outdoor recreation and was selected as the most trusted source for information.  
  • Hispanic/Latina females were the least likely respondent group to have visited a national forest, with 54.5% having ever visited a national forest. Furthermore, 63.6% of Black/African American females and 56.2% males reported having visited a national forest compared to 94.1% of White/Caucasian females and 96.4% of White/Caucasian males. 
  • In general, males, older respondents, and White/Caucasians were more likely to have visited national forests in their lifetime.


Two phases of telephone interviews were conducted with California residents to collect forest visitation and demographic information. The first phase was conducted in San Diego County, California, while the second phase covered three large regions defined as Northern Sierra, Southern Sierra, and Ontario/Riverside/San Bernardino. Phase one used landline numbers while phase two targeted landline numbers and cell phones. The interviews included open and closed-ended questions. The two datasets were combined into one with 1,977 usable responses.

Added to library on November 13, 2023