The Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands is concluding its 30th anniversary year in 2023. The celebration activities included publishing all the many contributions of Eppley and the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) on IU’s Scholar Works https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/, as well as the training delivered at the Great Lakes Park Training Institute, certification and training at the World Parks Academy, training through the Playground Maintenance Technician training program and other contributions to federal, state, local and non-profit public lands management, and park and recreation agencies.
The contributions the Eppley Institute and NCA have made over the past thirty years are exceptionally significant by any measure. Eppley Institute Director Steve Wolter shared that “there is likely no other university or non-profit institute or center that has made so many contributions to the overall improvement of recreational, cultural, natural experiences in the nation through their work and service”. Wolter also points to the impacts the Eppley Institute have on the built environment through its 20 plus years of work with the National Park Service Park Facility Management Division have helped reshape that entire agency. He goes on further to show that the “impacts of the National Center on Accessibility in the past thirty years are beyond any comparison in developing standards for outdoor recreation access and improving access to the national parks over the past thirty years”.
Eppley is not resting in its mission to partner with recreation, park and public lands organizations to enhance access, choice and quality of natural, cultural and recreational experiences. In this mission, Eppley not only helps the agency, but it also strives to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the increasingly complex and interconnected nature of parks, recreation, public lands and protected areas. Significant plans for 2024 include hosting the U.S. Value of Play Conference in April 2024 at Indiana University Bloomington, continuing the longest continuous and oldest park training program in the nation with the 77th Great Lakes Park Training Institute at Pokagon State Park, and expanding accessibility policy and assessment with five Northeastern state parks in Indiana and an accessibility pilot with the US Forest Service. Finally, Wolter is announcing long awaited improvements to Eppley’s online Learning Management System, proValensLearning.com that will improve learner experience and add badges and certificates to learners who want to improve their professional development in 2024.