• California States Park Conference

    Last week I was honoured to have been a speaker and participant at the California State Parks Training in Malibu California. The annual training is jointly organised by the California States Park Rangers Association (CSPRA) and Park Rangers Association of California (PRAC). The two organisations work hand in hand to develop a training conference that is current and relevant to all members. The membership of both associations is an interesting point in itself. Parks in the UK conjure up pictures of green lawns, planted borders with the odd fountain here and there. In California the parks are huge open wildernesses stretching on for miles and miles. They include rugged mountains, beautiful waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife from fish to bears. Park Rangers have the enviable job of protecting such areas and they consist of police, fire, archeologists, maintenance people and naturalists.

    Developing training that is relevant to such a broad spectrum of people is no mean task and the organisers pulled off a great event with a master stroke. The planners managed to achieve POST accreditation so that credits contribute towards the participants continual learning. However, that is not the real beauty of this conference.

    This is the second year that I have been asked to speak at the California Parks Training Conference and on both occasions I have been struck by two things. First it is a very mature conference. By that I don't mean that the attendees are ready to be put out to graze the areas that they protect. I mean that professionalism, care and passion for job that the Rangers do is overwhelming. I have been to many conferences where participant drift is prevalent or attendees come for the social activities, including lots of alcohol. This conference is different. Yes there is beer and there are social activities, including a cook- out with a Mexican magician (you had to be there), but throughout the event all you hear is people talking passionately about the parks, their work and how they can improve. Passion for their job does not come close to describing how the Rangers see their world.

    The second issue is a real sense of working together to do the right thing. The State of California is in a financial predicament and there is a real threat of park closures and loss of employment. This could have been a very dour and downbeat training conference, but the enthusiasm and determination shone through from all attendees. It is a real pleasure to spend time with such a group of motivated people.

    Perhaps the theme of the conference should have been 'Parks 2012 - the fight back' because these people are not going down without a fight. Both CSPRA and PRAC are lining up an impressive list of allies, including Clint Eastwood and Bobby Shriver (Arnie's brother in law), who was awarded Honorary State Park Ranger status. These are just the right people to exert influence, but they are backed but a group of people who are dedicated to keeping the parks of California open and safe for people to enjoy.

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