I’m in Las Vegas at the APPL conference (Association of Partners for Public Lands).
This is an association of associations – cooperating associations like Great Smoky Mountains Association who run bookstores in Parks and Friends groups, like Friends of the Smokies, who fundraise for Parks. In the Smokies, the two groups are very distinct and separate. In smaller parks, one group may do it all.
This is my third year as a board member of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and I’ve finally bubbled up the priority list and qualified to go. Eight of us came from GSMA, four board members, three staff and Dale Ditmanson, our superintendent. Most of the attendees are from Western Parks, no surprise here including many superintendents and chief interpreters from small park units.
This is my first time in Las Vegas and I’m overwhelmed. As soon as you got off the plane, you’re greeted by slot machines. My hotel seems to be one large casino, though there are restaurants and gift shops, if you look. The hotel charges for everything including the fitness center and wifi, even a USA Today newspaper. There isn’t even a coffee maker in the room.
But back to the APPL meeting. My first meeting was a Board Member roundtable. Most of the discussion centered on how boards get along with the Park management. Though ultimately the purpose of these groups is to raise money for Parks, they are still separate organizations. Conversely, these nonprofit groups have no say in policies and the running of the individual Park they support.
I was not bored with this administrative talk. But at the opening reception, it was all fun and networking. We got fake chips where we would play craps and roulette, just for fun. I saw the Craps table first and tried to play but the croupiers could not explain the fundamentals of the game. Each rule seemed to be separate and arbitrary. The croupiers were friendly and helpful but they were just pushing my chips around for me. By the time, I found the roulette wheel, something I do understand, they were no longer taking new players.
“Elvis” had been circulating through the crowds all evening. Finally, he got up and sang a few songs, with all the right moves. Now that I could understand. Las Vegas is three hours behind in time and by that time, it was past midnight body time and I called it a night.
Lots of meetings and talks tomorrow.