Business Students Analyze National Parks; New Student-Manned Program Strives to Improve Park Efficiency, Finances

Apr 19, 2001, 01:00 ET from National Parks Conservation Association

    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Instead of reaping high wages at a
 Hewlett-Packard internship, 25-year-old MBA student Ann Dubinsky spent her
 summer helping Bryce Canyon National Park assess its financial needs.
     Other students, such as University of Texas graduate student Fred
 Richardson, passed up lucrative summer jobs to explore battlefields strewn
 with kudzu, cracks in Mt. Rushmore's famous faces, and other realities at
 cash-strapped national parks.
     Their work might just save the parks, according to Phil Voorhees, NPCA
 Director of National Programs and Business Plan Initiative Manager.
     President Bush recently submitted a $4.9 billion national park budget to
 Congress. The need for such immediate and immense funding has been proved by
 Dubinsky, Richardson, and more than 20 other students who participated in an
 innovative business partnership between the National Parks Conservation
 Association (NPCA) and the National Park Service (NPS) that equips park
 managers with the tools they need to justify much-needed funding.
     In just three years, the program -- manned by graduate students on summer
 break -- has analyzed 27 national parks, developing comprehensive business
 plans for park planning.
     As visitation has increased, park budgets have failed to keep pace,
 causing visible stress on park resources-shortfalls in excess of several
 hundred million dollars per year. To further complicate the problem, the
 National Park Service (NPS) has a complex budget system, making it difficult
 for park managers to articulate specific needs.
     Chronic funding shortfalls are the root of many park problems. For
 example, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument, considered
 the immigrant gateway to America, is unable to support visitor interpretation
 programs that adequately tell the story of immigration to the park's 25,000
 daily visitors.
     Similarly, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, under authority of the Alaska
 National Interest Lands Conservation Act, allows hunting, trapping, and
 fishing. Although it is home to 55 mammal species and 22 fish species, only
 one-caribou-has been inventoried. Lack of funds make the park incapable of
 managing its most central resources-the wildlife within.
     "It is our goal to see the National Park System fully funded," said
 Voorhees. "But, we aren't going to be able to secure the future of the parks
 until we can readily explain what happens to current funding, what needs
 fixing, and how much it will cost. The Business Plan Initiative (BPI) achieves
 that goal."
     BPI hires graduate students to analyze national park units across the
 country and to clarify individual park budget and staff needs. Hailing from
 some of the nation's leading business, public policy, and natural resource
 graduate programs-including Columbia, Harvard, Duke, Dartmouth, and Yale-BPI
 student consultants team up with participating park managers for 10 weeks
 during summer, working hands-on with NPS staff to develop business plans,
 historical funding analyses, and comprehensive financial strategy statements.
     "We are proud of the findings of this business plan," said summer-2000
 participant Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument
 superintendent Diane Dayson. "The business plan will be used in the short term
 to present a clear picture of the park, as a prospectus, (and) as an internal
 management tool, applying the BPI methodology on a regular basis to assess
 operational standards, staffing needs, and investment priorities."
     NPCA and NPS hope to aggregate the past three years of data and assess
 their meaning for all 384 units in the National Park System.  NPCA is
 recruiting student participants to work in 13 additional parks this summer.
 
 

SOURCE National Parks Conservation Association
    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Instead of reaping high wages at a
 Hewlett-Packard internship, 25-year-old MBA student Ann Dubinsky spent her
 summer helping Bryce Canyon National Park assess its financial needs.
     Other students, such as University of Texas graduate student Fred
 Richardson, passed up lucrative summer jobs to explore battlefields strewn
 with kudzu, cracks in Mt. Rushmore's famous faces, and other realities at
 cash-strapped national parks.
     Their work might just save the parks, according to Phil Voorhees, NPCA
 Director of National Programs and Business Plan Initiative Manager.
     President Bush recently submitted a $4.9 billion national park budget to
 Congress. The need for such immediate and immense funding has been proved by
 Dubinsky, Richardson, and more than 20 other students who participated in an
 innovative business partnership between the National Parks Conservation
 Association (NPCA) and the National Park Service (NPS) that equips park
 managers with the tools they need to justify much-needed funding.
     In just three years, the program -- manned by graduate students on summer
 break -- has analyzed 27 national parks, developing comprehensive business
 plans for park planning.
     As visitation has increased, park budgets have failed to keep pace,
 causing visible stress on park resources-shortfalls in excess of several
 hundred million dollars per year. To further complicate the problem, the
 National Park Service (NPS) has a complex budget system, making it difficult
 for park managers to articulate specific needs.
     Chronic funding shortfalls are the root of many park problems. For
 example, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument, considered
 the immigrant gateway to America, is unable to support visitor interpretation
 programs that adequately tell the story of immigration to the park's 25,000
 daily visitors.
     Similarly, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, under authority of the Alaska
 National Interest Lands Conservation Act, allows hunting, trapping, and
 fishing. Although it is home to 55 mammal species and 22 fish species, only
 one-caribou-has been inventoried. Lack of funds make the park incapable of
 managing its most central resources-the wildlife within.
     "It is our goal to see the National Park System fully funded," said
 Voorhees. "But, we aren't going to be able to secure the future of the parks
 until we can readily explain what happens to current funding, what needs
 fixing, and how much it will cost. The Business Plan Initiative (BPI) achieves
 that goal."
     BPI hires graduate students to analyze national park units across the
 country and to clarify individual park budget and staff needs. Hailing from
 some of the nation's leading business, public policy, and natural resource
 graduate programs-including Columbia, Harvard, Duke, Dartmouth, and Yale-BPI
 student consultants team up with participating park managers for 10 weeks
 during summer, working hands-on with NPS staff to develop business plans,
 historical funding analyses, and comprehensive financial strategy statements.
     "We are proud of the findings of this business plan," said summer-2000
 participant Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument
 superintendent Diane Dayson. "The business plan will be used in the short term
 to present a clear picture of the park, as a prospectus, (and) as an internal
 management tool, applying the BPI methodology on a regular basis to assess
 operational standards, staffing needs, and investment priorities."
     NPCA and NPS hope to aggregate the past three years of data and assess
 their meaning for all 384 units in the National Park System.  NPCA is
 recruiting student participants to work in 13 additional parks this summer.
 
 SOURCE  National Parks Conservation Association