National Association of State Park Directors

National Association of State Park Directors

The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) was formed in 1962 to advocate for state park systems in America.

Stephen T. Mather formed the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916.1 After five years of establishing national parks, he was faced with two choices: either adding parks to the national system that were worthy of being established but weren't of national significance or with promoting state park systems to establish the locally significant parks.

Mather chose the latter by organizing and helping to finance a state park conference in 1921. At that time only nineteen states had parks, and seven of those had only one park for the whole state. That landmark conference gathered 200 people from 28 states, formed the National Conference on State Parks, and began a movement for establishing state park systems.2 By 1959, all of the lower states had designated state parks, most of which had come through private land donations.

With these newly established state park systems, the National Association of State Park Directors was dedicated to “helping state park systems effectively manage and administer their state park system.”3 However, after the 1950s, land donations slowed due to rising land prices. In 1965, national and state park systems were assisted in further land acquisitions by the creation of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Funded by offshore oil and gas leasing revenues,4 the LWCF has assisted state parks in acquiring nearly 3 million acres since its inception.5

Organized with a President, a Board of Directors, and members from each state park system, the National Association of State Park Directors has held annual conferences since 1962. The board eventually became structured around the six regions of America, and an Executive Director was hired. Forty years later, in 2009, NASPD added annual State Park Leadership Schools.

In 1976, the NASPD began recognizing a Director of the Year, which was renamed the Distinguished Service Award in 1990. Another award, the Special Award, was initiated in 1978, and since then, through ten different awards, they have recognized individuals, organizations, corporations, exhibitors, and government officials that have been supporters of state parks.6

The Supervivere (Survivor) Award, which began in 1992, is given to all State Park Directors who have served as Director for five years or more. Among those so honored was Fran Mainella in 1994, who became President of the National Association of State Park Directors in 1998. She also received the NASPD Distinguished Service Award in 1999. Fran went on to become the Director of the National Park Service in 2001.7

Joining with the National Park Service, in 2007, the NASPD formulated the Children In Nature Plan for Action as an initiative on reconnecting children and families with nature through state and national parks.

In 2009, to further the visibility of state parks, the National Association of State Park Directors launched America's State Parks to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, and economy and for the shared stewardship of our natural, cultural, and recreational resources. They also connect the public with state park options, encourage Youth Ambassadors and Friends Groups, and organize conservation projects. To facilitate private and nonprofit partnerships for state parks, NASPD has established the America's State Parks Foundation.8

  • 1. “About Us.” National Park Service. < > 18 Aug. 2011.
  • 2. “History of the State Parks.” State Park Agencies. < > 18 Aug. 2011.
  • 3. Wolfe, Tom. Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals. 11 Aug. 2011.
  • 4. “Land and Water Conservation Fund suffers 33% cut.” The Trust for Public Land. < > 17 Aug. 2011.
  • 5. Op.cit., “History of the State Parks.”
  • 6. “Past Award Winners.” The National Association of State Park Directors. < > 18 Aug. 2011.
  • 7. “History of NASPD Officers and Board of Directors.” The National Association of State Park Directors. < > 18 Aug. 2011.
  • 8. “National Association of State Park Directors Congratulates America's Favorite Park.” PR Newswire. < > 18 Aug. 2011.