Retiring NPS Director Mainella Addresses Recreation Exchange

Washington, D.C. (September 19, 2006) - National Park Service Director Fran Mainella delivered an upbeat message at the September Recreation Exchange. She told 40 recreation community leaders that she is "proud to have added recreation to the National Park Service vocabulary" during her six year tenure at the agency. Director Mainella also told the group that the recently updated NPS Management Policies address enjoyment of the parks through recreation to a greater extent than before "even if they didn’t come along as far as you wanted." She added that the policies are a living document in which cooperative conservation and civic engagement have also received new emphasis – and will enhance visitor services.

Ms. Mainella, who recently announced her resignation effective mid-October, told the group that FY 2008 budget talks are underway and that the Department of the Interior proposal would soon undergo review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Said Mainella, "I am going to OMB with the best budget proposal the agency has ever had," and she expressed optimism that the final proposal, to be released in February 2007, will be well-received by the recreation community. "It’ll put smiles on your faces," she said.

She explained that the President’s recently-announced Centennial Challenge, and DOI Secretary Kempthorne’s strong support for achieving significant results before the 100th anniversary of the Park System in 2016, have opened the door to changes in budget priorities. She believes that this initiative will have positive results across all federal land management agencies.

Turning to the challenge of connecting youth with the outdoors, Ms. Mainella observed that “the constituency which feeds our system needs to grow.” She believes that the effort to get young people “up and out” into the outdoors should be a rallying point for uniting many interests - environmental, recreation and corporate. She pledged to continue to be deeply involved in this issue in her future work.

Director Mainella has high hopes for seven unique pilot projects proposed by the NPS Advisory Board’s Committee on Health and Recreation to produce measurable health benefits and possible future service-wide applications. She remarked that the National Park Service is also broadening its vision of recreation in the parks to include a variety of new activities. “It’s not just traditional hikes in the national parks anymore,” she said. The Director noted that many new partners are being engaged in this effort, from large national health corporations to the National Park Foundation, which has raised $1.3 million for the Junior Ranger program. She encouraged the recreation community to “maintain your efforts and pull together with these diverse groups to all our benefit.”

Looking ahead, Director Mainella believes that Mary Bomar, nominated by the President as her successor, will be confirmed by the Senate before the coming Congressional recess. “You’re going to be excited about working with her,” she said. “She believes in partnerships and inclusivity and will be a good partner to you in the future. Help her to see the benefits of recreation and pull out success stories for her,” Ms. Mainella urged.

In closing, Director Mainella observed that, after 41 years working in the recreation field, she is convinced that “our parks, be it national, state, local or private, are so important to the lives and well-being of this country.” She is considering a number of future options including consulting and university teaching.

Following her remarks, Ms. Mainella took questions from the audience. She was asked what new skill sets the NPS needs going forward. The National Park Service, she said, is in the process of performing core operations analyses and adopting a business approach to facility management and development. She said that more emphasis needs to be put on surveys to determine what people, including those who do not visit parks, want from the national park system. Additionally, meaningful civic engagement, now to be embedded in NPS culture, requires more communications training for park superintendents and others who engage with the public.

Asked about the likelihood of a change in the OMB attitude toward National Park Service funding, Ms. Mainella said that she sees a real opportunity. “Dirk Kempthorne has shared his hopes and dreams for the Centennial Challenge with the President,” she said and she feels “hope and excitement” about receiving White House support for her budget requests.

One audience member remarked on the apparent lack of a unified vision for where recreation and public lands management is going in the future, and whether there is a climate for the “big picture” thinking needed to create this vision and achieve goals. “The Centennial Challenge is a great window of opportunity,” responded Ms. Mainella. A report of strategic goals and projects will be delivered to the Bush administration next spring she said. With Dirk Kempthorne’s continued involvement, she believes that all federal lands management agencies will be involved in and benefit from the visioning.

Recreation Exchanges are hosted in Washington, D.C. by the American Recreation Coalition ten times annually, featuring guests who are influencing recreation policy in America. Information on past and future programs is available at www.funoutdoors.com.

If you would like to contact Ms. Mainella, she can be reached as follows:
Fran Mainella
Director, National Park Service
1849 C St. NW
Room 3112
Washington, D.C. 20240
202-208-3818
202-208-7889 (fax)
Fran_Mainella@nps.gov

Recreation Exchanges are made possible by the following sponsors:
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Association of Marina Industries
BoatUS
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
Kampgrounds of America
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
PricewaterhouseCoopers
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
ReserveAmerica
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
USDA Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service