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Park Service talks about staying relevant

Paul Foy
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWBIRD, Utah ” After nearly a century of managing some of the most scenic places in the country, the National Park Service is having a two-day meeting to discuss how to stay relevant in a changing and increasingly diverse America.

Director Mary Bomar said the conference Wednesday and Thursday is a chance for “my fellow parkies” to reinvent the parks ahead of the agency’s 2016 centennial.

Some parks superintendents and a retirees’ group have criticized the summit as frivolous and ill-timed, coming with the end of the Bush administration just months away.

But Bomar said she hasn’t heard from a single naysayer among the group of about 350.

“They all said to me, ‘Boy, this was needed,'” she said.

Park superintendents haven’t gathered as a single group since 2000 in the waning days of the Clinton administration, she said.

Bomar is a political appointee who expects to be replaced with the next administration, but she said most of the career employees under her will remain.

Bomar said estimates the Park Service is spending $1 million on travel, rooms and meals are wrong. She didn’t have a firm number, but said the agency took the money from regional conferences that were canceled to spend on the national summit instead.

“We needed to come together,” Bomar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m convinced we’ve done the right thing.”

The superintendent’s summit is being held at this private ski resort surrounded by national forest land high in the Wasatch range, about 15 miles east of Salt Lake City.

In an opening address, U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne underscored the challenges facing the national parks as it tries to stay relevant to the newest generation.

“Children don’t know the outdoors, spending more time pecking at their BlackBerrys than picking some blackberries, surfing the Web instead of surfing the waves, webcasting instead of flycasting,” Kempthorne said.


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