Dave Park, Accessibility Program Coordinator for the National Park Service, retired January 1, 2009 after committing five decades of his career to improving recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Through various national leadership roles, Dave has brought attention to the need for access to recreation and tourism destinations such as museums, historic sites, and outdoor recreation areas.
Dave received his Masters Degree from the University of North Carolina. From 1960 to 1969 he served as a practicing Therapeutic Recreation Specialist with people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. In 1969, Dave was appointed as the Coordinator of Programs for Disabled Persons at the National Recreation and Park Association. There he worked on the formation of the NRPA branch developed as the National Therapeutic Recreation Society. Dave has worked diligently to promote the need for therapeutic recreation professionals and advance the career field through education. From 1975 to 1980 he served as Director of the Therapeutic Recreation Graduate Degree Program at George Washington University. Dave is a founding member of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.
Dave was appointed to the National Park Service in 1980 and has served as the NPS Accessibility Program Coordinator ever since. In the position, Dave has been the primary point person responsible for developing, monitoring, and coordinating efforts of the National Park Service to provide the highest level of accessibility for people with disabilities. His efforts have included a nationwide program in policy development, inâ€‘service education, technical assistance, compliance enforcement, and outreach to disabled citizen groups.
Throughout his tenure, Dave has served in numerous national leadership positions. He has served on several advisory committees to the U.S. Access Board including the National Advisory Committee on Accessible Recreation Facilities responsible for developing proposed accessibility guidelines for recreation areas covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He chaired the subcommittee on outdoor developed areas. In 1997-1999, Dave represented the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior on the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Areas. This committee was charged with reaching consensus on accessibility provisions that would cover trails, beaches, campgrounds and picnic areas. From 2001 to the present Dave has represented DOI as the official liaison to the U.S. Access Board, and was appointed to serve as the co-chair of the ad-hoc sub-committee charged with the development of the proposed rule for outdoor developed areas.
During the late 1980’s, Dave worked with Indiana University faculty on Project Access, a training program for the National Park Service designed to give personnel a greater understanding of the federal disability mandates. The collaboration between the university and the federal land management agency eventually led to a cooperative agreement establishing the National Center on Accessibility in 1992. Since then, NCA has evolved as one of the premiere resources for park and recreation practitioners seeking to make their programs and facilities accessible to people with disabilities. Dave’s support to NCA has been instrumental to the Center’s success.
Throughout his career, Dave has worked to create new models of accessibility program implementation from projects such as the Statue of Liberty restoration project in the 1980s and continuing with the current project to design a new interpretive experience at the USS Arizona Memorial. Based Dave’s knowledge and expertise with evolving trends, he has positively influenced numerous practitioners in the field also working to improve access for people with disabilities. Dave’s work has made a lasting impact, not only on the National Park Service, but on all federal land management agencies, and numerous entities at the state and local levels. Because of his commitment to inclusion, park visitors with disabilities have been able to enjoy greater access to recreation experiences throughout the United States.
The new NPS Accessibility Program Coordinator appointment has not yet been named.