BY MARA KNAUB @YSMARAKNAUB
The Latino community in Yuma is invited to enjoy and connect with the great outdoors during the sixth annual Latino Conservation Week, which began Saturday and runs through July 21.
In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is hosting two events, a Spanish presentation on the conservation efforts in Yuma at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Colorado River State Historic Park, 201 N. 4th Ave., and a Spanish tour of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, 220 Prison Hill Road, at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Spanish presentations are part of an effort by the YCNHA, which oversees both state parks, to reach more Hispanics. The YCNHA earlier this year formed an Hispanic Advisory Committee, comprised of community members, to finds ways to connect more with Hispanics, which make up more than 60 percent of the local population.
Sarah Halligan, communications specialist for the Heritage Area, noted that when Lowell Perry Jr. took the helm as the organization’s executive director last year, he realized that no efforts were being made to reach the Latino community, not only in Yuma, but also in Somerton and San Luis, Ariz.
These presentations are part of that effort. Vianey Avila, manager of the Yuma East Wetlands, will lead the Tuesday presentation and explain the riverfront and habitat conservation projects that have been taking place at the wetlands. There’s no need to sign up; just show up. Same thing for the Thursday guided tour at the territorial prison.
(Halligan noted that those who don’t speak Spanish can go down anytime and get the same — and more — information in English.)
This week’s focus on Latino conservation is part of an Arizona State Park program. The Heritage Area is tasked with “conserving, enhancing and interpreting the natural and cultural resources of the community through collaboration and partnerships.”
In addition, the YCNHA is asking the Hispanic community to share their family and cultural connections to the Colorado River. The park is working on a multi-cultural exhibit to highlight the different cultures in Yuma that have used the river.
“We are promoting Yuma’s history, and local Latinos have a part in that history,” Perry previously told the Yuma Sun. “It’s not for the National Heritage Area to say how their story should be told.”
Local high school and college students are helping YCNHA reach the Spanish-speaking community. Arizona Western College students translated the brochures and they’re printed and ready to go. They will also translate other materials, such as exhibits.
Students in the Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma (STEDY) have developed an app for self-guided tours at the Colorado River park. When school starts back up, Kofa High School students will translate the app into Spanish.
The organization is also looking into grants to pay for Spanish interpretive signs at both parks. The hope is that if exhibits and materials are in Spanish, Hispanics would be more prone to visit. One of the Heritage Area’s goals is to engage more year-round residents, many of whom are Hispanic. The overall goal is not to be a 12-month destination.
Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays at the Colorado River and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Thursdays through Mondays at the Territorial Prison.
For more information, visit www.yumaheritage.com or call 928-373-5198.