July 15, 2010
Our team along with Nancy Fraley, NPS Coordinator Southeast Exotic Plant Management Team, and other SCA interns working in our office, attended the America’s Great Outdoor Initiative at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
The conference was in response to President Obama's request for a report by November 15 with ideas for managing our national parks. He is interested in how to get the American public back into the “great outdoors”. Asheville was the eighth stop on a 20-city tour planned around the country for both youth and adult sessions. We volunteered as facilitators and transcribers for the morning’s youth session to record concerns, ideas, and interests for the initiative's report back to the President.
Overall, the suggestions in each of our youth groups were fairly similar:
-we need better education in public schools K-12 about the National Parks and the outdoors with an emphasis on getting young people outdoors and away from the indoor classroom
-improve funding at local and state levels of the Park Service to provide ways for more Americans to experience the outdoors
-make it easier for young people to get involved and find a career within the NPS and other government jobs without having veterans status overrule
During lunch, our team was able to meet with the Director of the National Park Service John Jarvis and Superintendent Phil Francis. After lunch were were able to hear Director Jarvis, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, and the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Tom Strickland speak at the adult session. This was attended by private and public interest groups, local land owners, other members of SCA teams, and concerned citizens.
In the adult sessions an interest was expressed in reaching out to the American youth. There was, however, a concern about funding. Another focus in the afternoon was the collaboratively with federal agencies and private groups, nonprofits, and other entities.