Conference allows recreation majors to network

Dave Shinall

Western recreation students who missed this year’s Kentucky

Recreation and Park Society conference made a serious career mistake, recreation professor Steve Spencer said.

“If you really want to be in this profession and you don’t do this, it’s a bad choice,” he said. “It’s made for networking.”

At this year’s conference in Bowling Green, finding recreation jobs and internships is on the minds of recreation students more than at previous conferences.

Lean economic times for state and local governments across the country mean a lot less fun ahead for students hoping to find jobs providing fun and recreation at state, county and city parks.

About 70 of Western’s 120 recreation majors used this year’s KRPS gathering at Sloan Convention Center as much for job leads as for learning about new trends in recreation.

“I guess the real reason I’m going is to network,” said Carlisle senior Melissa Selvage.

Fifty-four vendors showed up to show off the latest in playground equipment, water fountains for the disabled, child-safe teeter-totters, camping gear and lawn care products.

But only 170 KRPS professionals and student delegates attended the the four-day conference that ended Tuesday.

They heard keynote speaker State Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow, who’s running for governor, tell them about Kentucky’s revenue woes. Those woes waiver between $400 million and $509 million. And that prediction is rosy compared to many other states’ revenue forecasts.

Times are so tough the Kentucky Department of Parks could only afford to send one representative to the conference this year. Last year, the state sent 20 delegates.

“Because of the budget we are sending fewer people to various professional events,” said Jim Carroll, spokesman for the state parks department. “We’ve been asked to reduce our travel expenses.”

Still, the Kentucky Department of Parks has no plans to cut services or start charging entry fees at Kentucky’s 49 state parks, Carroll said.

“We’re full steam ahead as of now,” he said of park services. “What we’re doing is scaling back administratively as much as possible.”

For the most part, that means not hiring new people to replace those who quit or retire, Carroll said.

“It’s a nationwide situation,” said conference host Paul Correa, sports and wellness manager for Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “We’ve got to provide more with less is what it amounts to.”

And that’s what worries recreation students like Selvage.

“You wonder if there’s going to be a job available,” she said. “Whenever it comes to budgeting in the state, the first thing that gets cut is things like state parks and recreation. I have people that I’ve known for a long time, and their jobs are at stake.”

Reach Dave Shinall at [email protected]