Scholars have attributed park (non)use, especially ethno-racially differentiated (non)use, to various factors, including socio-cultural (e.g. poverty, cultural preferences, etc.) and socio-spatial determinants (e.g. travel distance, park features, etc.). But new geographic research is proposing alternative explanations for park (non)use, employing a ‘cultural politics’ theoretical lens. The cultural politics frame offers fresh insights into how practices of socio-ecological exclusion and attachment in parks may be undergirded by political struggles over the making and ordering of racialized identities. Challenging partial and essentialist explanations from leisure research, some cultural politics scholars have recently argued that ethno-racial formations, cultural histories of park-making (e.g. segregated park systems), and land-use systems (e.g. zoning and property taxes) can operate to circumscribe park access and use for some people of color. Using the cultural politics frame, this paper documents the ethno-racial and nativist barriers Latino focus group participants faced in accessing and using some Los Angeles parks. Participants reported feeling ‘out of place’, ‘unwelcome’ or excluded from these parks. They identified the predominantly White clientele of parks; the ethno-racial profile of park-adjacent neighborhoods; a lack of Spanish-language signs; fears of persecution; and direct experiences of discrimination as exclusionary factors. These findings have implications for future research and for park planning and management.
urban parks, social exclusion, race, nature, cultural politics, planning, focus groups