Park Service Listening Session Schedule

Mark your calendars. The National Park Service wants to know your thoughts and opinions about the forthcoming centennial. They have set up these listening sessions for us to participate and give our thoughts. Looks like Kempthorne, Bomar, and Scarlett will be picking up crazy rewards points on their frequent flyer plans over the next few weeks.

UPDATE #1: The National Parks Traveler has discovered a surprising discrepancy. Looks like there is high likelihood the first meeting will instead be in Gatlinburg, not Knoxville. But, even at this point with just 4 days to go, the NPS office in Washington D.C. can't say for sure.

UPDATE #2: I've just received word that the following schedule is still very much in flux. Cities are correct, dates are correct, but they may not be matched as in the list below. As soon as I get the real deal, I'll update the schedule. So for now, if you are interested in attending, and you see your city below, know that there will be a meeting for you sometime before the end of the month. Also, it looks like New York City, Washington D.C., and Atlanta may be listed in the next update.

UPDATE #3 The following schedule should now be accurate.

March 13
  • Knoxville Gatlinburg : Secretary & Director

March 14
  • Anchorage : Regional Director

March 15
  • St. Louis : Deputy Secretary Scarlett
  • Boston : Regional Director

March 20
  • San Antonio : Director
  • New York City : Regional Director
  • Seattle : Secretary this one may be moved to the 26th

March 21
  • Denver : Deputy Secretary Scarlett
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico : Regional Director

March 22
  • San Francisco : Deputy Secretary Scarlett
  • Miami : Director

March 26
  • Cleveland : Deputy Secretary Scarlett

March 27
  • Albuquerque : Regional Director
  • Kailua-Kona, Hawaii : Regional Director
  • Atlanta : Regional Director

March 28
  • Washington, DC : Director

March 29
  • Los Angeles : Regional Director

I'll attend the meeting near my home. It'll be interesting to see how they set it up, to see what type of presentation they will present. As the National Parks Traveler had wondered just a few weeks ago, I too am curious to see how much listening will occur. I do hope it's more than just a publicity road show.

Do I sound suspicious? It is quite possible that the NPS are approaching these sessions with open minds and clean slates. But, do you remember this press release from the American Recreation Coalition back in September, coming just a month after their 2005 Park Management Plan had been defeated?
Eighty Organizations Call for Forum to Address NPS Issues
According to the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), which coordinated the letter, the National Park Service faces many challenges ' but none more important overall than the threat of losing relevance to American families. ... Crandall said that the letter signers hope Interior Secretary Kempthorne will direct the National Park Service to create a forum to address these and other concerns.

Were these listening sessions created at the insistence of the ARC? I don't know. But I do know that what they mean when they say the parks are losing "relevance" is that the parks have not done a good job at adopting to changing consumer demands. Camping in tents is passe, Americans much prefer luxury hotel accommodations, and if we must rough it, we'll need bigger parking areas for our pull-behind campers. And because the Park Service is slow at adopting these amenities, Americans have chosen to spend their vacations elsewhere. And if you don't believe the ARC, they'll hold up the visitation stats for the NPS which show declining visitation in the parks over the last 10 years as their proof.

Road show? Listening session? ARC publicity stunt? I guess we'll find out when the party comes to town.