National Park Service – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program partners with GCI

David J. Thomson, RTCA Midwest Program Manager and Michael Mencarini , RTCA Community Planner

David J. Thomson, RTCA Midwest Program Manager and Michael Mencarini , RTCA Community Planner

Throughout 2016 the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding. Heralded by writer and historian Wallace Stegner as “the best idea we ever had,” the National Park Service is the federal agency responsible for overseeing more than 84 million acres of wilderness, national monuments, protected lakeshores, and scenic rivers and trails.

Also occurring this year is a new partnership agreement between the National Park Service RTCA Program and the Great Cities Institute in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Beginning in April a Community Planner from the National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program has been located within the Great Cities UIC office in Chicago, Illinois.  The NPS RTCA program supports community-led environmental resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation by providing a national network of conservation and recreation planning professionals that partner with community groups, nonprofits, tribal representatives, and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect important public places, and create recreation opportunities. Learn more about the NPS RTCA program here:  www.nps.gov/orgs/rtca

RTCA Volunteers and local children in Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Michigan.

RTCA Volunteers and local children in Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Michigan.

The Great Cities Institute will start this collaboration during an exciting time.  As part of its Centennial celebration, the National Park Service has launched several programs that include both year-long activities and long-term strategic plans.  These programs are a way of inviting a new generation of Americans to discover America’s special places and make meaningful connections to nature, history, and culture in their communities. These programs include “Every Kid in a Park” which “gives fourth graders nationwide free access to experience federal lands and waters throughout the 2015-2016 school year in order to connect the children to their cultural and natural heritage.” Additionally, a “Call to Action” describes a shared vision and “specific goals and measurable actions that chart a new direction for the National Park Service as it enters its second century.”  It also includes a program called The Urban Agenda. Learn more about the NPS Centennial here:  www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial

The NPS Urban Agenda is a set of strategies for the Park Service to “organize its many urban parks and programs towards building relevancy for all Americans, to connect with their lives where they live, rather than only where some of them may spend their vacation.”  Realizing that urbanization has affected the way that many Americans may interact with national parks, the Urban Agenda has three specific frameworks: 1. Be Relevant to All Americans; 2. Engage the Entirety of the National Park Service system; and 3. Nurture a Culture of Collaboration. Learn more about the NPS Urban work here:  www.nps.gov/urban

hoto by: Tim Sweet. Rock Island in Door County, Wisconsin.

hoto by: Tim Sweet.
Rock Island in Door County, Wisconsin.

This spirit of collaboration will allow the Great Cities Institute and the National Park Service to benefit from research cooperation, improved access to policy networks, and additional expertise for community outreach initiatives.  As the NPS expands efforts in urban areas, the NPS RTCA program and Great Cities Institute will be an important partnership to expand the range of opportunities in Chicago.

To find out more about this collaboration contact Michael Mencarini at Michael_Mencarini@nps.gov.

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