ASU to expand partnership with NPS
Appalachian State University is one of 18 nonprofit organizations from across the United States to receive cooperative agreement status with the National Park Service's Service and Conservation Corps Program.
The five-year agreement will enable the university to contract with any of the National Park Service sites to provide rehabilitation, restoration and enhancement work.
"The purpose of the program is to provide educational and work opportunities for students age 16-25 at the national parks and parkways," said Neva Specht, an associate professor in the Department of History and the university's liaison with the Blue Ridge Parkway.
"The park service is looking for organizations that can provide individuals to participate in their Service and Conservation Corps Program," Specht said. "We have a model program in place - the Blue Ridge Parkway Corps - that we believe can be replicated nationwide to introduce college students to the stewardship of National Park Service sites in a way that is both cost-effective and of high quality."
Students in the university's Blue Ridge Parkway Corps serve as volunteer educators along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway trail system, hike and monitor trails, and assist hikers who may need additional information.
"This agreement allows us to go to any of the 391 national park sites and enter into a task agreement, which is contract between the site and the university, to conduct whatever project needs they identify," Specht said. "We are excited to be able to build on the positive partnership we have had with the Blue Ridge Parkway and extend that partnership to other sites."
Appalachian was the only organization in North Carolina to receive a cooperative agreement with the park service.
Funds from contracts awarded to the university will provide jobs to students, one of the highest unemployed age groups, Specht explained. The nature of park service needs means students from a variety of disciplines - from recreational management and history, to biology, geology or anthropology - could be matched in positions that will enhance their educational degrees.
"The park service needs assistance with surveys of natural or cultural resources, trail maintenance, small repairs to historic buildings, and inventories of view sheds," Specht explained. "There is work that a variety of majors could do."
The experiences students gain might also lead to full-time employment for those choosing to pursue a career with the park service, particularly in light of the large number of park service employees anticipated to retire in the near future.
Eric Frauman, an assistant professor of recreation management in Appalachian's Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science, will contact national parks to inform them of the expertise Appalachian can provide through the cooperative agreement. The university will then bid on providing services for their projects as they become available.
"This agreement will provide a great opportunity for our students," Specht said.