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Bilingual maps help get Latinos in Colorado enjoying Roaring Fork Valley's trails

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Summertime draws hundreds of millions of people to the nation's most popular parks and recreation areas. A group in Colorado wants to make maps and signage for these sites more welcoming. Here's Aspen Public Radio's Caroline Llanes.

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CAROLINE LLANES, BYLINE: At the Red Hill Recreation Area trailhead in Carbondale, about 30 miles northwest of Aspen, the parking lot isn't full yet at 9 a.m., but it's getting there. Looking at the sagebrush and red rock formations, you nearly forget you're right next to the state highway. Nearly all of the hikers getting on and off the trail here have been white and spoken English. Christian La Mont with California-based Latino Outdoors says that's pretty common at trailheads across the country. And that can be a barrier to getting other folks outdoors.

CHRISTIAN LA MONT: And so there is this perception that you don't belong because you don't see yourself. And that goes from the casual hiker to the park ranger.

LLANES: That's one obstacle - another is a lack of recreation maps in Spanish, and trailhead signs are typically only in English.

LA MONT: We tell people, like, come to this trail, and oftentimes they get there, and they're like, now what? Do you feel welcome? Is this a place for you? Do you understand where you're going? - like, really important signage.

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LLANES: But here at Red Hill, the signs on trail etiquette and the local ecosystem are in Spanish and English. That's great for Trini Rochin and her husband. Natives of Mexico, they've lived in Carbondale for more than 20 years.

TRINI ROCHIN: (Speaking Spanish).

LLANES: They live here, she says, and have the freedom to get out and enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. They'd love to be able to hike with others, but this is one of a handful of trailheads with signs in Spanish. Rochin says, oftentimes, their friends and other local Latinos don't feel comfortable navigating the trails with information only in English.

ROCHIN: (Speaking Spanish).

LLANES: This valley, with Aspen at one end, has a population that is close to 30% Latino. Lots of those folks work long hours in the area's resort economy, and Rochin says many of them don't have the time or energy to research recreation options on their own, which are mostly described in English.

ROCHIN: (Speaking Spanish).

LLANES: Local advocacy group, Defiende Nuestra Tierra, is the one that got the signs translated into Spanish at this trailhead. It also created a Spanish-language map of 19 areas on nearby public lands. El Camino Latino includes information on what you can do at each, like hiking, biking, camping and picnicking, how difficult the trails are and whether an area has bilingual signage.

OMAR SARABIA: (Speaking Spanish).

LLANES: That's Omar Sarabia, director of Defiende Nuestra Tierra. He says the intention is to create a culture of hiking, of the outdoors. Especially after COVID, he says now people can grab this map and say, OK, I have 16 options. Where can I go?

There's still work to be done. Most trails around the valley don't have bilingual signage, and other hikers pointed out that future versions of El Camino Latino could include information about wildlife. But hikers like Trini Rochin say the map and more trail signs in Spanish are an important step in helping her community feel like it belongs on Colorado's trails.

For NPR News, I'm Caroline Llanes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Caroline Llanes