We are excited to announce that Joshua Tree National Park Association is one of our 2021 Wander Project grant awardees! This year, we were able to support two groups in the Joshua Tree area. Funds raised by athletes went to support the Friends of Joshua Tree and their search and rescue program, and then a direct contribution of $5,000 from Vacation Races was awarded to support Joshua Tree National Park Association (JTNPA).
What is the Joshua Tree National Park Association (JTNPA), and what do they do?
JTNPA can trace its roots back to the early 60s. The association was incorporated in 1962 with the mission to support the park through education and research.
In 2006, the JTNPA purchased the Visitor Center near the west entrance of the park and has operated it for the National Parks Service (NPS) ever since. As the primary non-profit partner of the park, JTNPA now operates and coordinates activities across all four park visitor centers. Today, JTNPA continues its education and research initiatives by offering various products and services to park visitors, association members, and others.
What are some programs that JTNPA offers?
The Desert Institute is JTNPA's most well-known program. The Desert Institute started in 1999 and provides educational classes in the park and in surrounding public lands. Classes also extend into the community where rangers and other educators share programming related to natural sciences, liberal arts, and local historical and cultural topics. Some programs include learning materials inside the visitors centers, field days in the park for youth, and providing other educational materials to the community. This programming allows both visitors to the park and members of the community to better understand the unique dynamic and fabric that exists between the natural and anthropological landscape.
JTNPA also offers Old Schoolhouse Museum Lectures which is coordinated with the Historical Society of 29 Palms. This series sheds light on the human historical elements of the lands surrounding Joshua Tree.
Finally, the association offers online programming — largely in response to COVID restrictions — to reach home-bound individuals. This online series, known as DesertLive, adapts many of the lessons from the traditional Desert Institute and Old Schoolhouse Museum Lectures to expand education to individuals who aren't able to travel to the park. JTNPA says that this online format has significantly increased their footprint and they are excited to continue offering online learning options.
How does JTNPA help reach marginalized groups?
The association states that part of its mission is to share programming with groups who either don't have the resources to coordinate their own educational programs and to groups who aren't accustomed to looking to the parks for programming. JTNPA extends outreach to the community through groups like the Native American Land Conservancy, the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians, and Latino Outdoors. These partnerships are formed and sustained with guidance from JTNPA's cultural advisory group. The group, comprised of representatives from traditionally under-served populations, promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion and ensure that these principles are practiced in JTNPA programming and daily business endeavors.
How will the Vacation Races funds support JTNPA?
In 2020, Vacation Races promised to support organizations that invest in the well-being and development of marginalized communities. These organizations, like JTNPA, are well-integrated with the community and often expose young people to careers in conservation, make the parks accessible to the community, provide learning resources, and encourage an interest in the outdoors and public lands.
The donation provided by Vacation Races will help support several of JTNPA's Desert Institute field days. These field days, titled "You and Me in Joshua Tree," planned with Latino Outdoors invites young adults to experience Joshua Tree on guided day trips through the park. These guided tours not only teach participants about the park and natural landscape, but also provide career information and give participants the opportunity to talk with professionals in the conservation field. The hope is that these one-on-one and group discussions can ignite an interest and passion for the outdoors and its long-term preservation. The field days also include led hikes, visits to significant landmarks in Joshua Tree National Park, tours of the native plant nursery, and Native-led walks around the Oasis of Ma'ara.
With a dedication to providing outdoor education and opportunities to all people, we couldn't think of a better group to support. We look forward to seeing how JTNPA will flourish and grow over the years. Thank you, JTNPA, for all the work that you do to continue conservation and education efforts in and around the Joshua Tree community.