Show cover of Park Leaders Show

Park Leaders Show

Park Leaders connects the wisdom of Park Managers, leaders in the park system, and thought leaders of the business world with up and coming park leaders. This is the show for Park Rangers, Park Managers, and leaders who want to have an impact. Join host Jody Maberry as he talks to park leaders from all over the world.


Creating Experiences for Normal People
"The general public is not impressed with how much you know. They're impressed with how much you've inspired them to know more about the places they visit." Key Moments 02:04 Creating Park Experiences for New Visitors 07:10 The Challenge of Information Overload in the Digital Era 10:35 Historical Communication and Public Engagement 16:02 Inspire Learning through Augmented Reality Historical Storytelling 18:08 Instant Information Access on Learning 21:19 Contact for creating park experiences or highlights. Resources Facebook - Creating Experiences for Normal People The deep knowledge of park leaders is invaluable. However, when we want to create experiences for the everyday visitor it is important to recognize that simplicity resonates with the general public. We can add to their experience by offering narratives and relatable stories that build their interest in the history. Even better is when it encourages them to further explore the land.  Too many park guests feel lost in a sea of too much information at an exhibit. Park leaders have the unique role of balancing their wealth of knowledge with creating intrigue of the great outdoors. As Phil says, "park people are not normal people." and how we can embrace this difference to enrich the experiences of our everyday visitors. "Normal" may be subjective, but the joy of discovering the wonder of parks is universal. A park adventure shouldn't feel like a history exam. It's about creating a connection that turns mere data into memorable stories. This is how parks capture hearts and provoke minds. Ever heard of the Horn Works in Charleston? No? Phil Gaines shares about turning a 10x10 foot relic into a journey through time. Imagine seeing a revolution-era fort pop up among modern buildings using augmented reality. That's where technology marches alongside history in the parks, showing us that innovation and tradition can walk hand in hand. It's an opportunity to dive into the past without getting lost!  It is inevitable that people will spend time googling historical facts after a park visit. Visiting parks sparks curiosity in the minds of the next generation. For many younger visitors, a monument speaks louder than textbooks. Parks are more than terrain; they're a testament to human history. Next time you visit a park, look beyond the scenery. Search for the story, find the connection, and dive into the curiosity and wonder the experience brings.  While park staff may not be your everyday Joe, the experiences they curate should resonate with anyone stepping off the bus, ready for adventure. Make sure to listen to listen to this episode for more on ways park leaders are working on making the next 250 years of park history as engaging as the first. 
23:03 4/9/24
Volunteer Projects to Enhance Tourism
"We have to do more things with younger people to make sure they know what a cool industry we are and that there are so many different job opportunities that aren't just front line."  Key Moments 04:35 Tourism Synergy and Collaboration 08:37 Empowering Youth to Make a Positive Impact  14:50 Revitalizing Urban Parks and Workforce Development. 19:03 Building Partnerships for Environmental Conservation 20:26 Historic Site Preservation 23:50 Community Support in the Tourism Industry 28:06 Promoting Career Diversity to Youth Resources Facebook - Volunteer Projects to Enhance Tourism The dedication of park professionals is undeniable, espeically when they are all together in one place. At the annual in-service for Michigan State Park, I had the opportunity to meet a number of people doing amazing things, including Patty Janes, a professor and founder of Michigan Cares For Tourism. Her organization brings together tourism experts to revitalize Michigan's historic and cultural park attractions. The more we talk the more clear is becomes that impact of volunteer work on local tourism provides a blueprint for successful community involvement. Volunteerism is a tourism booster. Patty has championed this cause through Michigan Cares For Tourism by organizing volunteer events that tackle the maintenance backlog in state parks. These events, such as an adopt-a-forest program, are vital for park conservation. They also enhance the visitor experience by improving facilities and creating a cleaner environment. The impressive result of these efforts is an estimated $1.2 million in labor and supplies saved for the state. She knew the profound economic impact of volunteer-driven tourism projects, and it is most certainly paying off. Collaboration is the linchpin of success in these community projects. The synergy between Michigan Cares For Tourism and a diverse set of organizations such as Pure Michigan and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been a key force. These partnerships facilitate initiatives such as the transportation of volunteers via donated motor coaches and the structuring of professional communication. This approach underlines the potential of joint efforts to get sustainable results. All while creating a more vibrant tourism industry. Educating and involving the younger generation in tourism is a must. Patty continuously works with high schoolers and early professionals to bring awareness to career opportunities within the tourism sector. This helps highlight the field's career potential while insprining future stewards of Michigan's natural gems. It also encourages the fresh flow of ideas and innovation, ensuring the longevity of the industry. Make sure to listen to this episode for more of Patty Janes’ insights and opportunities.  Whether you’re a business professional with an eye for community impact or simply a lover of parks, this episode is full of ideas on the intersection of volunteerism and tourism.   
29:56 4/2/24
The Role of a Park Director
 "A good new part director has a vision. And and if you want to make a difference and leave your mark, you have to have vision of where you want to take your agency in the next year, in the next 3 years, and in the next 5 years." Key Moments 06:53 Recognize the need to act as leader. 11:39 Watch what you say, people are listening. 13:38 Build on core values, ethics, and vision. 18:28 New directors often overwhelmed, need readiness training. 21:35 Stay close to service, vision, motivate. 25:38 Seek smarter team members for success. Resources Facebook - The Role of a Park Director Successful leaders have a clear vision and understand the impact of communication. in order to drive it forward. Phil Gaines returns for a great conversation on the role of a park director, though anyone in a leadership role can benefit from what we discussed. When someone has a vision, it will only come to fruition if they make decisions with confidence to empower their team while staying close to your point of service 3 key takeaways from our conversation: Vision and Communication: Successful leaders have a vision and can effectively communicate it to their team. This sets the path for the team's success and establishes a sense of urgency. Empowerment: Effective leaders must empower their team members with the knowledge and tools needed for success and be ready to support them as they work toward achieving the shared vision. Accountability and Decision Making: Leaders need to be okay with being held accountable and must be willing to make tough decisions. They should be focused on moving the team forward strategically and not recklessly, with a strong sense of urgency. This episode gives a great perspective on the intricacies of leading a park, while also offering valuable wisdom for leadership roles in various organizational settings. This episode is a must listen, whether you aim to rise to the position of a Park Director, or aspire to grow in your current leadership position. 
28:58 3/26/24
Leadership is a Choice
“Go sit on a rock in your favorite spot somewhere and do a very serious self-assessment. What am I good at? What am I not good at? What do I like to do? What do I don't like to do? And if you don't want to be out there in the lead, if you don't want to be out there taking some risk, if you don't want to get up in front of audiences, don't put yourself in that position." Key Moments 01:45 Starting a Career in Parks and Recreation 06:37 Ranger Experience in Yosemite 10:31 Toxic Work Environments 13:57 Conservation Efforts in Protected Areas 14:45 Environmental Protection by National Park Service Personnel 19:01 Leadership Accountability and Self-Assessment 25:35 Importance of Reputation in Career Success Walt's Presentations on YouTube A History of America's Public Lands | Texas Parks and Wildlife Education Channel History of US Public Lands Canyonlands Natural History Association Conversation on Public Lands with Walt Dabney | Coalition to Protect America's Nation Resources Facebook -  Leadership is a Choice As a park leader it is necessary to be willing to take risks and make difficult decisions. One person that is no stranger to that is Walt Dabney, retired director of Texas State Parks. Walt has left a mark on the parks and conservation landscape, making him quite a legend in the industry. During our conversation Walt shares stories from his extraordinary career. From his deep-rooted connection to the outdoors in Texas, to his unexpected journey through the National Park Service and his pivotal role in challenging decisions that would impact the future of our public lands. He even took on the military to stand up to mining interests. Walt's unwavering commitment to safeguarding our parks serves as a powerful lesson in resilience, determination, and the true meaning of leadership. This episode explores: - The bold moves and pivotal decisions that shaped Walt's career - The importance of taking a stand and putting yourself at risk for what you believe in - Key strategies for effective leadership, including decision-making, self-assessment, and fostering respect and trust Being a leader means balancing approachability with managerial authority. Leaders should be ready to embrace bold moves. Throughout Walt’s career, he had to make bold decisions, take on challenging assignments, and stands up for what he believes in. It is also important to recognize when the role you’re in isn’t what you thought you wanted or turns out to not allow you to do the things you are good at. Even if you don't enjoy your current role, be diligent, supportive, and efficient in your work, as this will impact your reputation and future career opportunities. This episode is full of valuable lessons from Walt's experiences and leadership philosophy. It is a must listen for park leaders and enthusiasts. There is no doubt you’ll want to hear more, so many sure you keep an eye out for the documentary, "History of America's Public Lands.” This documentary will further expand your knowledge of the history and relevance of public lands in the United States.  
28:13 3/19/24
Finding the Return on Investment in Interpretation
“People can't fall in love with your park if they're lost." Key Moments 03:49 Law enforcement rangers use interpretation to influence. 07:05 Expanding park interpretive products for diverse experiences. 09:56 Framework for visitor experience in parks and its application across different contexts. 13:53 Problem-solving strategies for adaptation. 19:08 ROI of interpretive programs for park rangers. 21:54 The challenges of parks to increase diversity amid visitor influx. 23:14 Diversity and inclusion in State Parks for better representation. Connect with Ky The Visitor Experience website Ky Harkey on LinkedIn Resources Facebook - Finding the Return on Investment in Interpretation Interpretation plays a vital role in attracting, entertaining, and educating diverse users. One person with a lot of experience in this area is Ky Harkey, former director of interpretation for Texas State Parks and now founder of The Visitor Experience. His expertise in interpretation and visitor experience helps park leaders improve the relevance and inclusivity of their programs and services. During our conversation Ky shares some of the ways we can enhance the visitor experience, increase diversity in visitorship, and create a more engaging and impactful park environment for everyone. Key Takeaways from this conversation: Interpretation & Business: The concept of "entrepreneurial park rangers" reflects the need for the park industry to approach management and services as a business. This will help them effectively solve the challenges and drive impact. Stewardship Staircase: The framework of the "staircase of the visitor experience" encompasses the 5 core services along the Staircase to Stewardship. It provides a strategic way to guide visitors towards stewardship and reflects the diversity of the communities the parks serve. Diversity in Visitorship: Interpretation plays a vital role in attracting and engaging diverse users by sharing under-told stories of natural and cultural history, providing relevance, and fostering connections leading to moments of impact. Make sure you listen to the full episode to gain insights into the visitor experience and the influence of interpretation in shaping the future of parks. To learn more about Ky’s work and get access to a self-assessment tool to evaluate your visitor services, visit Consider ways you can embrace the transformative power of interpretation and entrepreneurial innovation to grow the experiences that have a positive impact of parks and conservation.
28:32 3/12/24
Managing Protected Areas
"Part of the narrative that we find ourselves in is talking about creating areas that are protected for people, not from people." Key Moments 02:57 Conservation and Community Participation 05:29 Rethinking Conservation Strategies 14:57 Conservation Training in Latin America 17:22 International Conservation Collaboration 22:05 Importance of Nature on Human Health 23:54 Global Tourism Program Facilitates Cross-Cultural Exchange and Learning. 27:13 Global Conservation Efforts Connect with Ryan LinkedIn Ryan Finchum Warner College of Natural Resources Resources Facebook - Managing Protected Areas Ryan Finchum is the co-director of the Center For Protected Area Management at Colorado State University and a seasoned expert working with the US Forest Service international programs. He joins for a conversation diving deep into the world of protected areas. We explore the crucial decisions that shape our national parks and conservation efforts, and how past mistakes can light the way for future success. From missteps like feeding bears in dumps to the construction dilemmas faced by park roads. Ryan shares some of the vital lessons learned and the international collaborations that aim to bolster our global stewardship efforts. Key Takeaways: Lessons From History and Colleagues: Understanding the mistakes of the past, and the knowledge exchange on a global scale, is vital for forward movement in protected area management. Career Opportunities in Conservation: Ryan underscores the multitudinous pathways for careers within protected land spaces - an inspirational note for the upcoming generation of conservationists to think beyond traditional roles. Community Inclusion & Support: The core of Ryan's message lies in creating inclusive protected areas for and by the community, emphasizing that their successful management hinges on community involvement and support. Don't miss this conversation on the nuances of managing protected areas, ranger training, sustainability. It's not just about protecting land, but also about nurturing relationships with those who inhabit it.
34:13 3/5/24
Answering Questions About Being a Park Ranger
"If you're going to be really good at it, you're passionate about it. You believe that you're doing something that's bigger than just collecting a paycheck." Key Moments 02:05 Inspiration for a Career in Park Rangers 06:13 Evolving Qualifications for Park Rangers 08:39 The Importance of Passion in Career Choices 21:38 Evolution of Park Rangers and Park Management 31:44 Job Application Strategies and Power of Networking 45:11 The Importance of Work-Life Balance in the Great Outdoors 47:54 Unexpected Challenges of Environmental Awareness 53:28 College Involvement, Professional Associations, and the Future of Park Rangers Resources Facebook - Answering Questions About Being a Park Ranger Being a park ranger is about more than just trees and trails. Phil Gaines and I both believe it is about the people you meet and the relationships you nurture in this close-knit community. There is never a dull moment when park rangers come together to swap tales from the trails. And while there is certainly a share of wildlife encounters and serene sunsets, there’s so much more to the job. That is why we decided to take the time to dig deeper into the park ranger experience. Networking is essential even in the most remote locations. It's like linking trails with people. Networking is a natural pathway to opportunity. By connecting with a friend I found myself being introdced to the National Park Service director. These are the connections that turn park-goers into park stewards, proving it's not just the trees that stand tall together; it's us rangers too. Sure, being a ranger means living the park life (literally), but that doesn't mean personal life takes a back trail. It can be a balancing act, like a bighorn sheep on a rocky ridge. It's about finding a sweet spot so your personal time doesn't get lost in the woods. Whether it’s managing family life within park boundaries or carving out time for self-care, it is important to make sure you take time to also care for yourself. Times are changing, and so is the role of the park ranger. There has been a cultural shift from the traditional ranger persona to a wave of fresh faces eager to influence and innovate. There is a wave of new recruits who bring new ideas and are ready to grow. The new generation isn't settling for the status quo. They want to contribute, to be part of decisions that shape their parks. And they need leaders who will listen. Parks serve as more than just plots of land; they're a sanctuary for both wildlife and the human spirit. Becoming a park ranger is as much about loving the parks as protecting them. It’s about being ready for anything—from guiding lost visitors to handling wildlife and preserving natural habitats. A park ranger's career isn't easy. The outdoor office has its challenges, but your contribution is timeless. Rangers shape memories, protect history, and make our parks a home for all. Whether you're looking to start your career or just love the great outdoors, make sure to listen to this episode, “Answering Questions About Being a Park Ranger”, for first-hand answers about being a park ranger. 
55:44 2/27/24
Document History
"Sometimes we forget, or perhaps even take for granted, the significant role that we may be we may be playing in this legacy that we call parks." Episode HIghlights 01:07 Significance of national parks and our role in preserving parks. 04:53 Organic Act of 1916 shaped National Park Service. 06:49 Lack of agreement among states led to individual state park systems. 10:05 Need to actively preserve and utilize information for future generations. 16:08 Challenge of storing, organizing, and preserving photos and videos. 21:41 Document and archive significant historical events proactively. 25:05 Capture memories and impact of park experiences for future reference. Resources Facebook - Document History It is incredibly important to preserve the historical legacy of our national and state parks. There is a need to capture significant events, natural disasters, and park facilities for our future understanding. Phil Gaines joins this episode to talk about the importance of documenting history in parks, including strategic archiving of photos and videos.  There is a need for a strategic approach to maintain historical records amidst the era of social media, emphasizing the importance of cataloging and archiving photos and stories. Some of the ways this can be done are by creating procedures for archiving significant events, conducting year-end reviews, and documenting landscape changes over time. It is also important for individuals to recognize the impact they are making on the park system and to be deliberate in their documentation efforts. No effort is too small. From significant events to natural disasters and park facilities, impact of photography and digital archiving is crucial. These moments shape the narrative of our parks and help us appreciate their evolution. Some of the ways this can be done are to create procedures for archiving significant events, conduct year-end reviews, and document the change in landscapes over time. It's all about capturing the essence of our parks for posterity. Take a listen to the full episode to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of documenting park history. Share your thoughts with Phil and I to continue the conversation about preserving the legacy of our parks.
29:30 12/5/23
People Come First in Parks
“If you offer something specific, not only are you offering to help, but that shows that you see them as a person and that you're recognizing their specific needs rather than just generalized to the general population." Episode Highlights 03:39 Creating a podcast about parks and the opportunities that come from it. 09:02 Recommendations can be reliable and chance encounters facilitate connections. 10:15 Being open to opportunities and making connections has led to getting great podcast guests. 15:28 Leaders should prioritize personal responsibilities over their public service roles. 17:53 Park rangers are prioritizing their roles. 22:17 Putting people first leads to park love. 27:41 Advice for outdoor leaders: equip, inspire, and succeed. 32:04 Be specific when offering help to others. Resources Facebook - Last episode, we did an interview with Chris Lee. In this episode, we're going to Flip it a bit. I'm going to share the episode of Chris's Parks and Restoration podcast where Chris Interviews me. I'm not so sure I've ever done that on the park leader show. If I have, it's been a while. It was a great conversation, and I look forward to sharing it with you. During our conversation we talk about the importance of putting people first in parks. As park leaders, it's crucial to prioritize the well-being of our staff and visitors. The best leaders in the public sector, particularly in parks, prioritize serving their staff first. By creating a supportive and empowering environment for our teams, we can foster a love for the park and enhance their desire to connect others to it. The power of connection is undeniable. Networking and building meaningful relationships play a significant role in the success of park leadership. Through connections with professionals, we gain recommendations for guests on the show, while also broadening our knowledge and understanding of industry trends and disruptions. Whether in the workplace or personal life, offering specific help is more effective than a general offer. By taking the time to understand someone's unique needs and offering tailored assistance, we show that we truly care and are invested in their success. If you're a park leader or passionate about parks and conservation, I highly recommend listening to this episode. It's packed with insights, anecdotes, and practical advice that can help drive positive change in the industry. Let's continue to prioritize people and create exceptional experiences in our parks.  
34:46 11/28/23
The Impact of Local Conservation
“those little tidbits of information really help park and conservation leaders be better in their jobs, be better stewards of the resources, and just be better community leaders." – Chris Lee Episode Highlights [00:02:21] Importance of local parks and conservation efforts. [00:03:53] Parks offer a strong community presence and finding solace in nature. [00:08:01] Park rangers connect people to experiences with the outdoors. [00:11:59] Always strive to improve leadership skills. 00:13:12] Focus on team culture. [00:17:33] Understand your purpose to find fulfilling work in the parks. Connect with Chris Lee LinkedIn Parks and Restoration Podcast Resources Facebook - The Impact of Local Conservation Local conservation efforts have a lasting impact on communities and individuals. Chris Lee, the executive director of Des Moines County Conservation, joins for a conversation on the important role of conservation in local communities. Chris also hosts his own podcast called "Parks and Restoration”. During our conversation he shares about his journey from growing up in the small town of Burlington, Iowa to leading the county's conservation department. The unique benefits of local parks and conservation efforts often go unnoticed. These efforts play a critical role in connecting people to the outdoors, fostering a love for nature, and even influencing decision-making in the future. They also touch on the importance of local park rangers in being the face of conservation and how they can empower communities to get involved in conservation initiatives. Listen to the full episode to learn more about the role of local parks and the inspiration they can provide for conservation on a larger scale. Let's work together to make a difference, starting in our own backyards.  
23:14 10/31/23
Manage Like a Mother
"When your mother was not setting expectation properly and yet was keeping you accountable, it felt unfair. You remember that. So take those learnings and apply them in the workforce..." – Valerie Cockerell The skills and experiences of motherhood translate into essential and effective leadership skills. Valerie Cockerell started to find similarities between the challenges of managing a park to the struggles of parenting. Throughout our conversation, she emphasizes the valuable skills mothers acquire through managing a household, such as time management, conflict resolution, and crisis management. Her own experiences as both a mother and a leader within a global company have shaped her perspective on leadership. Feedback should be seen as a gift for growth or an opportunity to become better in our roles. Valerie emphasizes the distinction between judging character and changing behavior. She points out that many emerging leaders lack proper training, which can lead to difficulties for both them and their teams. That's where Valerie's book, “Manage Like a Mother”, comes in. It offers practical advice on various leadership competencies, all which have are inspired by the amazing qualities of mothers. Valerie believes that men can learn from the naturally honed leadership skills of mothers. Once that value is recognized it is important to promote more women, especially mothers, into leadership positions. There have been positive changes in the park industry, with more moms and women taking on influential roles as park rangers. Recognizing and valuing the diverse skills of mothers can lead to a more inclusive and nurturing workplace environment. Mothers have a special way of influencing and teaching people to do something in a way that people then want to do because they see value in it. This is also a strength of great leaders. When employees are guided by that type of leadership it ensures that even when the leader is not present, tasks are still performed. The team understands their importance and contribution to the overall objective. Make sure to take a listen to this unique perspective on leadership and the parallels with motherhood. Let us know what stood out to you in this conversation and how you see it influencing your park leadership. Join the conversation on this topic using #ManageLikeaMother. Connect with Valerie: Order the book - Manage Like a Mother Email - LinkedIn - Connect with Valerie Resources Facebook - Episode Highlights [00:02:20] Childhood memories foraging for mushrooms in France bring appreciation for American national parks. [00:05:40] "Beautiful parks, crowded with people, but nostalgic." [00:10:12] Limited leadership training leads to difficult leadership. [00:15:24] Feedback is a gift for improvement. [00:18:15] Being a manager is difficult without training, much like parenting. [00:20:31] Men need to recognize and advocate for leadership skills they see in women. [00:23:49] Motherhood is like leading a team; influence is key. [00:27:52] Don't rush, learn and seek guidance.
30:01 10/10/23
The Future of Camping
"... they don't have to make conservation their top priority. So you combine those 2, and they are really doing some innovative things around camping." The increasing demand for camping in natural parks has impacted the future of camping. Companies are taking notice and working to proactively prepare for this growing interest. During this conversation, Donald Forgione joins to talk about camping trends and innovations and how it's evolving to meet the growing demand. There continues to a growing interest around camping in natural, state, and national parks. Industry leaders like KOA, Winnebago, and Airstream are collaborating to cater to this growing trend. Some less common camping concepts Donald and I discuss include urban and rooftop campgrounds. The camping landscape is ever evolving, and parks need to be able to anticipate the interests of their visitors. Something that should never be overlooked is the importance of inclusivity and ensuring access to parks for all individuals, irrespective of their background or camping equipment. Educational programs, such as the ones offered at the conference I recently attended, offer fantastic opportunities to get a better perspective on camping trends. Guest speakers, researchers, and professors share their expertise in a way that paints a better picture of what to expect and how they can support one another. Government entities can learn from the innovative approaches of private entities in camping and parks. In return, they can be a great resource providing unique offerings like dark skies and immersion in natural resources. Much like the collaborative and supportive nature of the conference, directors, support staff, assistant directors, and field operations people should make the time to gather with the intent to share ideas and learn from one another. Make sure to listen to this episode for a unique perspective around the future of camping and the remarkable work of the National Association of State Park Directors. If you aren’t a park leader, it’s still a great conversation that will likely inspire you to explore the great outdoors. Resources Facebook - Episode Highlights [00:07:40] Innovative ways build back better, environmentally. [00:12:43] Future campsites: natural, state, national parks. [00:16:11] Government camping invites private sector, offers more. [00:19:58] Marginalized communities, expensive campers, variety of amperage. [00:26:25] National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), also known as America's State Parks, hosts conferences, brings in experts, and provides training.
30:45 10/3/23
Reviewing the 2023 State Park Director's Conference
"What you're doing is making a difference not only for this generation, but if you do it right, it's making a difference for future generations." Phil Gaines and I had the chance to record an episode together while attending the 2023 State Park Director's Conference at the Mormon State Historic Site in Genoa, Nevada. It was the perfect opportunity to discuss our experiences at the conference, with Phil sharing his unique perspective as a former park director now representing Clemson University. There are so many highlights from this conference that one episode may not be enough. For example, our session on disruptive renovation is a topic we are going to need to explore in a future episode. There are challenges in parks nationwide, with the top concern being recruitment and retention of employees. In this ever-changing world, parks have to find ways to stay relevant and stay ahead of the game. Some have tapped into the power of artificial intelligence to elevate the visitor experience. We can’t overlook the significance of the conference being at Mormon Station, the first settlement in Nevada, and the California Trail that passed through Genoa. This leads to a conversation on the importance of preserving stories and land in parks. There is a need for adaptation and planning to sustain these treasures for future generations. Throughout the episode, we reflect on the efforts to manage and accommodate the increasing number of visitors to these popular destinations. This conference did a great job doing its part with a fantastic exhibitor area. The space was filled with vendors showcasing innovative ideas to support parks, recreation, and conservation. Make sure to listen to our recap of the 2023 State Park Director's Conference. Phil and I provide insights into the challenges, triumphs, and inspiring innovations within the park industry. Resources Facebook -  
21:25 9/26/23
Managing the Capacity Dilemma
  Capacity is a big challenge for this generation, especially post-pandemic. We need to rethink how we get people into these special places while preserving their natural beauty and ensuring a meaningful and enjoyable experience. - Phil Gaines As national park attendance continues to increase, managing visitor numbers has become crucial. The pressure is on park officials to accommodate the influx, while ensuring a quality and safe experience for all. As a seasoned park ranger, Phil Gaines understands the importance of preserving the natural beauty and integrity of parks. He joins for a conversation about managing the capacity dilemma, because since the pandemic there has been an ongoing influx of visitors. Despite the challenges, workers have made notable efforts keeping the parks clean and the trails well-marked. However, as we dig into this even deeper it is quite disheartening to recognize the potential impact of overcrowding on the park's environment. There are a number of concerns in the parks such as increasing erosion and crumbling of the asphalt due to overuse. The behavior of visitors has also created dilemmas that were once considered less common. Too many are acting recklessly by taking selfies with bison or venturing too close to boiling geysers. While it is wonderful knowing people are exploring parks, it is important to acknowledge the reality of dealing with the increased interest in parks. People have now discovered their value, so we have to find a way to preserve it. Take a listen to this episode as Phil and I talk about recent trips that really brought to light the challenges that popular parks face in managing their capacity. This is a topic that needs more attention so make sure to share this episode with others.   Resources Facebook - Episode Highlights 00:02:22 - Visiting Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, 00:06:28 - Adjusting to Increased Attendance 00:08:26 - Challenges of Managing Crowds 00:11:57 - Employee Recruitment and Park Operations 00:14:12 - The Importance of Connecting with Nature 00:15:34 - The Dilemma of Crowds in Parks 00:17:23 - Capacity Issues and Spectacular Locations 00:21:45 - The Impact of Individual Behavior 00:26:21 - Balancing Visitor Access and Preservation 00:29:15 - The Impact of People Discovering Parks
30:15 9/12/23
Transforming Neglected Parks into Community Assets
"The more interaction you have with nature, the healthier you are mentally and physically." - Dan Biederman Dan Biederman is an expert in urban redevelopment, who discovered a profound love for the outdoors at a young age. He dreamed of becoming a forest ranger, but lacked the scientific background. Instead, he found himself as a systems consultant in the heart of midtown Manhattan. A chance encounter with Bryant Park, a neglected public park in New York City, led him to his true calling; transforming neglected parks into community assets. His work showcases the potential for positive change in urban spaces. If you aren't familiar with it's history, Bryant Park was once a dangerous and underutilized space. Dan combined his knowledge of business and politics and undertook the task of transforming the space. Today, Bryant Park stands as a testament to his vision of a vibrant space among the concrete jungle. That area has become a beloved sanctuary for New Yorkers and is considered one of the best small parks in the world. Dan emphasizes the importance of involving the community in the planning process of redevelopment. By listening to their preferences and needs, developers can create a programming plan that attracts people to the park. During our conversation he shares his experiences and insights into the process and impact of urban park redevelopment when revitalizing neglected public spaces. We also discuss the numerous benefits of urban parks, such as improved mental and physical health and the creation of social spaces. Dan's success in revitalizing neglected public spaces serves as inspiration for those looking to make a positive difference in their own communities. From Seattle to San Francisco, he continues his mission, revitalizing urban parks, and fostering a sense of community in the heart of the city. This is a valuable conversation for anyone interested in urban planning and community development. Connect with Dan Biederman Biederman Redevelopment Ventures Resources Facebook -  Episode Highlights 00:00:38 - History with the Outdoors 00:02:46 - Urban Redevelopment 00:04:59 - Community Impact 00:08:27 - Personal Benefits of Parks 00:15:42 - Parks in Need of Redevelopment 00:17:28 - Favorite Hiking Spots 00:18:37 - Glacier National Park 00:19:24 - Advice for Making an Impact 00:20:29 - Where to Find More Information  
21:12 8/22/23
Searching for Missing Hikers
  "I really wanted to tell the truth behind the beautiful scenery." In a world of rugged landscapes and unpredictable elements, park rangers and first responders face challenges that test their limits. Sometimes that work can include critical tasks such as searching for missing hikers. Andrea Lankford is a former National Park Service ranger who joins to share her insights on the importance of firefighting and law enforcement in parks.  Andrea's love for the outdoors lead her to study Forestry and Wildlife management at the University of Tennessee. She volunteered for the Forest Service for one summer and ended up going to the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy in Silva, North Carolina. From there she was hired at Cape Padres National Seashore as seasonal law enforcement park rangers with the National Park Service. She fell in love with the job and ended up working for the Park Service for over a decade.  The opportunity to work in national parks like Zion, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon, had Andrea face the thin line between natural beauty and danger. She witnessed the harsh reality of nature and the risks that came with her role. Her experiences were not just about enforcing laws but also dealing with injuries, deaths, and missing persons. These intense experiences inspired Andrea to give voice to the heroic efforts of park rangers. After years of serving as a park ranger, Andrea found herself drawn to the unanswered mysteries of missing hikers. The uncanny disappearances of three hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail piqued her interest. Using investigative skills honed over the years, she offered her expertise pro bono to the grieving families. Andrea’s experiences as a ranger proved invaluable. The resilience, people skills, and problem-solving abilities she gained were put to use in unexpected ways, proving the versatility and value of her background. As a park ranger, she won several awards for her work as a criminal investigator and she implemented the "Heat Kills. Hike Smart" public education program credited with preventing heat-related deaths at the Grand Canyon—a program that continues to save lives today.  Andrea is equally passionate about using her influence to raise significant discussions around missing hikers and effective search and rescue strategies. Her storytelling seamlessly fuses personal experiences with professional insights. After you listen to this episode, make sure to buy her book Ranger Confidential. It is Andrea's first book that takes you behind the scenes of being a park ranger and shares captivating stories from her time in the National Park Service. Resources Facebook - Connect with Andrea Andrea's Website Buy the Book Ranger Confidential  Episode Highlights 00:00:28 - Becoming a Park Ranger 00:01:09 - Career as a Park Ranger 00:03:35 - Investigation as a Park Ranger 00:14:40 - Importance of Empathy for Park Rangers and First Responders 00:15:44 - The Impact of Social Media on Search and Rescue 00:20:34 - Collaboration with Non-Government Entities in Search and Rescue 00:22:21 - The Use of Technology in Search and Rescue
27:47 8/1/23
The Role of an Assistant Park Manager
"The exposure that assistant managers have to total park operations is tremendous." Managing a park isn't a one-person job. It's a combination of efforts from different individuals with the role of the assistant park manager quite significant. Phil Gaines and I explore the hidden challenges and crucial responsibilities they have. An assistant park manager has to understand how that park operates as a business to fully fulfill their role. Join our conversation about the wild world of park management, where the scent of adventure intertwines with the thrill of responsibility.  In this episode, you will: Discover the integral role an assistant park manager plays in maintaining the park's harmony and sustainability Realize the significance of establishing a strong relationship between the park manager and assistant manager for optimal park operations Uncover the complexities of an assistant park manager's duties and the strategies to navigate these challenges effectively Grasp the essence of the assistant park manager's contribution in decision-making and problem-solving scenarios Understand the value of the assistant park manager role as a pivotal stepping stone for emerging leaders in the park industry Being an assistant park manager requires a unique dance, balancing leadership  and needs, from park guests, the frontline, and the higher-ups. If you're interested in pursuing a career in park management, make sure to listen to this episode. It's a great conversation that will highlight the value in the assistant park manager to develop your skills and knowledge.  Resources Facebook -  
31:45 7/11/23
The Politics of Parks
  "Focus on common objectives and goals, you can get to where you want to be without being divisive." When people first enter the world of park management, they don't expect to be involved in politics. Yet, as time goes on it's not uncommon to find yourself at the center of political discussions on issues like land use and resource management. It is important to focus on governance rather than personal politics. Politics affects everyone in parks, from park rangers to directors. Parks are deeply intertwined with politics at every level. The higher up in the system, the more one has to understand who they work for. Phil and I have found that it is best to navigate these situations by focusing on the core values of stewardship and service. It is important to stay true to your core values as a park person and have a strong ethical background. Compromise is critical when dealing with people of different ideas. It is also important to not lose sight of the primary responsibility – the preservation of the parks under your care. As a park ranger, the focus should be on the protection of the property, not personal politics. It is important to build a good reputation and character to be able to influence decisions and advocate for the park's protection. By building strong relationships and a reputation for integrity you will be able to work effectively with politicians, advocating for the best interest of the parks and the people they serve. Resources Facebook - Episode Highlights 00:00:02 - The Politics of Parks 00:03:30 - Getting Involved in Politics 00:06:09 - Compromise and Common Goals 00:09:40 - Politics in Parks at Different Levels 00:15:02 - Importance of Separating Politics and Governance 00:17:24 - Personal politics vs. governance 00:19:21 - Understanding Director's Role 00:20:27 - Navigating Decisions 00:21:32 - Climate Change  
22:27 6/13/23
Dealing with Park Visitors Who Misbehave
"The customer is rarely right, but they're always the customer." Phil Gaines joins to discuss the surge in misbehavior among park visitors after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a number of factors that could have caused this increase. One is the increase in new visitors who were not familiar with the park's rules and regulations. Like many places, there also seemed to be a lack of customer service focus among staff. Both of those combined creates the inherent difficulty in managing large crowds. This episode gives great reminders as to the importance of educating visitors about park etiquette. I love Phil's proactive approach to addressing potential issues. What ways are you addressing the concerns with visitor behavior before they have a chance to escalate? In this episode, we discuss: factors behind increased misbehavior in parks during the COVID-19 pandemic. the significance of educating visitors about park rules and regulations. responsibilities of park leaders in ensuring clean facilities and a positive visitor experience. how to embrace a ranger-first mentality and proactive approach to address misbehavior in park settings. how to separate personal emotions from work and concentrate on finding solutions Instead of letting misbehavior among visitors ruin the park experience, take a proactive approach that could change the game for parks everywhere. Take a listen to this episode for ideas on how to take back control of the experience in parks. Resources Facebook - Episode Highlights 00:02:21 - Increase in Misbehavior in Parks 00:06:08 - Tips for Dealing with Bad Behavior 00:10:25 - Importance of Presence 00:13:08 - Handling Bad Behavior 00:14:43 - Ranger First Mentality 00:16:21 - Advantages of Non-Law Enforcement for Education 00:19:06 - Don't Take It Personal 00:21:19 - Customer Expectations  
23:42 6/6/23
Conversations for Park Professionals
In this episode of the Park Leaders Show I am joined by Donald Forgione, retired director of Florida state parks. Now I also get to welcome him as the host of the podcast, Tailgate Talks. Donald's diverse skillset made him a valuable asset among park professionals. As he shared his experiences and knowledge with others, he discovered a common thread among park rangers: they all possessed a deep sense of service and duty. With his podcast, Donald is going to be able to help even more people that are navigating the challenges of park management and the importance of ongoing learning and development. In this episode, you will: Recognize the crucial role of maintenance in effective parks management Tackle the difficult task of finding and retaining top-quality seasonal employees Appreciate the worth of third-party analysts in fostering productive dialogues Discover the wide-ranging skill sets of various park professionals Embrace the significance of continually evolving both personally and professionally The episode provides valuable insights for park management professionals seeking to improve their maintenance and staffing policies. Donald continues to display an unwavering commitment to preserving the beauty of parks and their natural wonders. If you enjoy this episode, share it with someone else. Then make sure to continue to learn from Donald's curiosity and passion for parks by subscribing to his new podcast, Tailgate Talks. He takes on topics such as partnerships, wildlife management, forestry, and even interviewing techniques, proving that there is always more to learn in the world of park professionals. Connect with Donald Resources Facebook -  Episode Highlights 00:00:02 - Introduction, 00:02:19 - Starting a Podcast 00:06:41 - Comparing Beginnings and Practice 00:09:45 - Tailgate Talks 00:11:47 - Park Professionals 00:13:54 - Importance of Maintenance and Third-Party Involvement 00:15:52 - Working with Park People 00:17:05 - Future Episodes of Tailgate Talks 00:18:30 - Feedback and Guest Suggestions
19:42 5/16/23
Get Your Park Ready for Summer
"If you educate and train your employees on the very front end, it makes for so much better summer season." Spring is here and the parks are already starting to get busy with visitors. That is why it is important that you get your park ready for summer well in advance of their arrival. Part of taking the time to get the park ready includes making sure all the employees are trained and educated for a busy season. Iif you don't do the little things to prepare, the season could prove to be unmanageable and unfulfilling. Documenting your process and experience each year is critical to future success. The crew this year may not be there next year. How then will you tackle this monumental task of getting the parks ready? In this episode we talk about why it is important to: Implement strategies to prepare parks for the summer season based on past experiences. Recognize the significance of proper training and education for park employees to enhance their efficiency. Streamline park management by understanding how to document and optimize maintenance processes. Discover ways to adapt your park management practices to the reduced downtime in today's fast-paced world. Leverage the power of community involvement for the greater cause of park conservation and preservation. It can be difficult for park managers to know how to best prepare for the busy season. From outdated strategies to ineffective solutions, there are plenty of things that could make anyone overwhelmed. That is why Phil Gaines is back to share valuable lessons from his experiences to help you create proactive preparation strategies. "Act, don't react." Episode Highlights: 00:01:13 - Phil recommends beginning preparation for the summer season at the end of the previous summer by listing what worked and what didn't work. 00:05:53 - Setting the stage for employees to get ready for the summer season includes working on attitude and atmosphere by making sure employees have a positive mindset and are ready to deal with crowds and demands. 00:07:01 - Document all processes and procedures for getting the park ready for the summer, create a list of maintenance items, and check all equipment. Ride along with maintenance staff and park rangers to see what they see and hear what they talk about. 00:09:54 - Writing out the script of what a visitor's experience should be, including driving into the park, going through the welcome station, registering for camping, setting up at the campsite, and other activities. This can help train staff and ensure standards are met. 00:13:35 - Park leaders need to see their park through the eyes of a visitor to manage and exceed their expectations. 00:14:18 - In a post-pandemic world, shoulder seasons have reduced. There is less downtime to catch up and get ready for the season, and preparing for the summer season starts in the spring. 00:15:57 - The week before and after Easter is one of the busiest weeks of the year in South Carolina and other warm weather climates. The grass is green, and people are coming to visit. This is a beautiful time of the year to get out into parks and enjoy the scenery. 00:18:03 - Documenting processes and procedures using technology such as videos and photos can help park rangers remember what to do and train others. It also helps document park history throughout the year and respond to situations better than writing on a yellow legal pad. Resources Facebook -  
21:01 4/18/23
Maintaining View Sheds in Parks
"Leadership is hard because it's a gray decision. It's not a black and white decision. You have to take a breath, take two steps back, and figure out what the objective is and why the resource is being protected in order to make the right decision." - Phil Gaines Phil Gaines recently attended the California Parks training conference. He joins this episode to share what he learned there as well as his wealth of experience in park management and viewshed protection. One unexpected experience for this self-proclaimed Southern boy accustomed to sunshine, was venturing to the snow-filled wilderness of California. However, it was there that he found an interesting issue in the parks between protecting a historic view shed or letting nature take its course. This is one of the latest compelling clashes between preservation and progress.   There were other impactful moments while he was at the conference including learning from park rangers from around the country and talking about the importance of friends groups and the impact of homelessness on parks. They also talked about viewshed protection, which he learned firsthand when trying to preserve the Table Rock Overlook. He argued that the view was sacred and a way to connect people to the resource. He found that viewshed protection was a difficult decision, as it often involves compromising between natural and cultural landscapes. Despite the difficulty of the decision, Phil was able to protect the view of Table Rock Mountain, giving visitors the opportunity to be blown away by its magnificence. Resources Facebook -  
23:54 3/28/23
How to Deal with a Shortage of Seasonal Staff
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, guest co-host, Phil Gaines, returns to discuss the ways parks can manage seasonal staff shortages. While park careers have their perks, the challenge of filling them is increasing in today’s climate. As Phil explains, recruiters are not only struggling to compete with other industry compensations but also to confirm interest from a remote audience. Since many park positions require onsite involvement, finding the right candidate can be arduous pending qualifications and willingness to relocate.  What then is the solution? While there’s no one-size, fit-all fix, in theory, scouts must embrace unorthodox means to reach their talent pool. From analytically driven social media job postings to community involvement, park recruiters must be willing to establish relationships from teachers and school children to parents and business leaders. Resources Facebook -  
26:40 2/28/23
The Rise of Environmental Law
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, Jody welcomes guest Daniel Selmi to discuss the rise of environmental law. Dan is a retired Professor at Loyola Law School and joins the show to discuss his new book, “Dawn at Mineral King Valley”. A Disney aficionado, Selmi discusses the inspiration behind the book and unpacks Disney’s struggle to build a ski resort in what is now Sequoia National Park. Amidst the legal battle between the Sierra Club and the National Park Service, Selmi discloses little-known facts about the ordeal culminating in a memorable Supreme Court ruling. Though the Sierra Club’s efforts would ultimately inhibit Disney’s ability to build the resort, with many environment lessons compacted within a single narrative, you’ll find Selmi’s storytelling and commentary compelling as he takes you back in time into a groundbreaking case study. Resources Facebook - Resources Facebook -  
30:13 2/14/23
The Biggest Issues for Parks in 2023
On this episode of Park Leaders Show Donald Forgione joins to discuss some of the biggest issues in parks in 2023. Resources Facebook -
27:13 12/27/22
Balancing Tourism and Local Communities
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, Lori Modde, Founder & Managing Director of Lorick Management, joins the show discuss the balance of tourism and community development. As a community and economic development expert with over 25 years of experience, Lori has long been an advocate for national parks in Australia. Having started out as a marketing manager in the tourism industry, Lori’s business, Lorick Management, has worked on campaigns to encourage diversity and health within tourism since the mid 2000’s. Despite the pandemic, Lori believes the return to normality will require more commercial intentionality to not only motivate park participation but explore the financial benefits of promotion. For more information about Lori’s work, visit her website at Resources Facebook -
26:10 12/13/22
Be a Champion for Public Lands
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, co-host, Phil Gaines, returns to discuss public lands with special guest and nationally recognized historian, Clay Jenkinson. As an expert on Theodore Roosevelt’s life and presidency, Clay unpacks the dynamics surrounding Roosevelt’s exploration and conservation efforts. He also dissects the generational differences concerning the expectations of parks. For instance, when one talks about spiritual significance, Roosevelt’s definition is arguably more sacred than the modern-day interpretations due to how people perceive reverence and what constitutes a rejuvenation of the human spirit.  Either way, to be a better American, Clay suggests people understand what made this country what it is and advises park leaders to define public lands to include better technology for maximal engagement. While Roosevelt and his peers were compelled to pioneer accessibility, if the current populace is to appreciate iconic landmarks, there must be pathways for them to embrace that accessibility. Resources Facebook -
55:37 12/6/22
Park Visitors Notice Your Standards
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, guest co-host, Phil Gaines, returns to discuss standard awareness in parks. Based on true stories, Jody and Phil discuss how parks should handle their facilities during financial hardships. Since one of the most important buildings in the park is the bathroom, park rangers must take care of maintenance matters in a timely fashion to retain credibility and morale. As Phil suggests, dare to ask yourself, ‘What message do I want to send? What standards do I want the public to notice?’ Whatever the answer, if you permit it, you promote it. You may base decisions solely on finances and budget cuts, but if quality control becomes a casualty, all sides lose in the long run. Resources Facebook -  
22:44 11/29/22
Who is Gifford Pinchot?
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, guest co-host, Phil Gaines, returns to discuss the life and legacy of Gifford Pinchot.  As a top 10 influencer on Phil’s park and conservation list, Pinchot, often heralded as the Father of American conservation, left an impressionable legacy on national parks. Not only did he professionalize forest management but established the modern definition of conservation as a “wise use” approach to public land. In his words, stewardship was regarding “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.” A peer of Teddy Roosevelt, Pinchot founded the Society of American Foresters in 1900 to preserve public lands and prevent exploitation. Having served as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Pinchot also tripled the nation's forest reserves using his conservation definition to maintain long-term health of state resources. Resources Facebook -
27:56 11/15/22
Operating with a Sense of Urgency
On this episode of the Park Leaders Show, guest co-host, Phil Gaines, returns to discuss the importance of operating with a sense of urgency. While urgency is often discussed as a function of time, as Phil explains, the term for park rangers should be viewed through intentionality. Like business leaders, park rangers should not reduce urgency to deadlines but enhance it through deliberation. More specifically, they must know their goals, be able to define pathways, and make differences within time restraints. Per Phil’s experiences, operating with a sense of urgency is not about speed but action. Accordingly, if you understand urgency in a healthy way, chances are you’ll be able to move organizations forward and inspire your teams along the way. Resources Facebook -
18:54 11/1/22