Professional Development

Farewell Bend State Park, Baker County, OR

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, confirmation of 2021 SPLS is pending. Evaluation and assessments are ongoing to confirm that the training can be safely provided and travel authorizations/applications from the respective states park systems will be approved and submitted. Confirmation of the 2021 SPLS will be posted ASAP.

The 13th annual State Park Leadership School will be held at the National Training Center at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia, January 5 – and 9, 2020. Register early. Last year saw a record number of applications — class sizes are limited.

Founded in 2007, the State Park Leadership School was formed with hopes to fill a void that was trending due to the baby boomer generation of state park employees approaching retirement. Assistant Park Managers, as well as people coming in from other industries, were in need of professional development in order to step into park manager and other leadership positions.

Ideal students include new supervisors, mid-level managers moving into greater responsibilities and high-potential employees. The program covers core competencies that are essential to effective professional state park management.

Students are able to network with peers from all over the country and receive instruction from professionals with state park management experience.

The two-year certificate program through North Carolina State University consists of both distance education and on-site components. Students begin the program receiving an on-line distance learning module that provides instruction on the curriculum. Each module includes study guides, sample test questions, and recommended supplemental resources. The on-line portion is followed up by an on-site experimental learning forum at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia. Each year concludes with a written exam covering the various topics within the curriculum. After the second year, an average score of 70% is required to earn the certificate.

The first year curriculum covers topics such as: Budget/Calculating Operating Costs, Laws and Regulations, Time Management, The Art and Science of Trails, Project Management, Introduction to Resource Management, Stewardship of Natural Resources, State Park Planning, Law Enforcement/Visit Protection, Conflict Resolution, Identity and Traditions in State Parks, Change Management, Customer Service, Risk Management, Decision Making, Education and Interpretation Services, Technology in Parks, Friends/Groups/volunteers/partners, Career Management and Leadership, Procurement/Contract Management.

The second year curriculum covers other topics: Multicultural Management, Communication, Media Communications, Book-The State Park Movement, Resource Management II, Business of State Parks/Marketing, Employee Relations, Maintenance Planning, Influencing Decision Making/Community Relations, Teambuilding/Recruitment/Retention, Recreation Conflict, Ethics, Trends, Estimating Recreation Use, Book-State Park Leadership Concepts, Funding Strategies, Stress Plus, Public-Private Partnership Panel.

The State Park Leadership School aims to develop core competencies for effective state park management by working directly with those who have filled the management positions for several years. Experienced park managers and directors are able to share their experiences with students and participate in a network of management employees so that they may learn from each other having faced some of the same challenges.

In addition to being able learn about some of the traditions, students also get an education about natural and cultural resource management, budgeting, facilitating change and organization and understanding the difference between leadership and management.