Fran's New Job
Here's a good news, bad news story.
The good news is that Fran has a new job. Kind of. Come January she's going to be a visiting professor at Clemson University.
The bad news is that she'll expound, presumably, on how to run the national park system in the university's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.
I dub that the bad news because, in announcing her position, the university had this to say about Fran's performance as National Park Service director:
"Mainella's tenure was highlighted by fostering new and innovative partnerships, improving visitor services in the parks, reducing a massive maintenance backlog and revising Management Policies. She worked to strengthen programs to preserve natural and cultural resources in the parks. She focused especially on creating opportunities through volunteerism, partnership and outreach programs."
That's the "glass half full" version of Fran's tenure. The half-empty version might read like this:
"Mainella's tenure was highlighted by encouraging privatization of the park system, declining visitor services through a significant drop in interpretive positions and shortened visitor center hours, an increase in the agency's annual funding shortfall, expansion of motorized recreation in the parks, and a largely dispirited field staff."
At Clemson, the university says, Fran will "lead seminars for graduate students in the PRTM program and help raise funds for a research and training center in park management."
And here's a gem from Brett Wright, the university's faculty chair for the PRTM program:
"Fran Mainella is a key leader in parks and recreation nationally and internationally. She has been a strong advocate for preservation of parks for more than 25 years."
It's certainly disconcerting when a supposed bastion of higher education so carefully ignores the facts. Fran, let's not forget, was solidly behind the initial rewrite of the Park Service's Management Policies, the one that would have weakened protections for the park system's natural resources. She also voiced no complaints about President Bush's $100 million cut in the Park Service's FY2007 budget, even though a Government Accountability Office report pretty much described a struggling and, in places, crippled, park system in a report to Congress.
Is this the resume one would want for an "educator" who will be contributing to the education of future park and rec managers? I would hope not.
Of course, perhaps Fran's true vision for how the national park system should be operated and supported by the federal government has been muzzled by the Bush administration for the past six years. If that indeed is the case, if she really is a stout advocate for our national park system, then now is the time for her to set the record straight.
I'd be happy to take her phone call and hear her side of the story.