07 June 2024

A Great Experience at the National Outdoor Recreation Conference

Written by: Megan Gaitan

In early May I attended the National Outdoor Recreation Conference (NORC) in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. I was highly encouraged by my team on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to attend the meeting for networking purposes and since I work remotely in northern California, it was a no-brainer for me to take advantage of this professional development opportunity so close to home.

I was pleasantly surprised by my entire experience at NORC. There were so many impactful sessions, ranging from climate-related topics to others focused on improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in recreation. I also networked more than I ever had before, which was a big step for an introvert like me! I met my coworker on the CDT, many people from Region 2 of the Forest Service who I typically see on regional calls, plenty of intelligent people who work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and others who work in recreation through non-profits. 

The most beneficial part of the conference for me was attending the National Trails Track sessions and workshop. Since I work for the CDT, which is part of the nation’s National Scenic and Historic Trails (NSHT) system, it made sense to follow this track and learn from a talented group of trail professionals. 

The primary focus of these sessions was learning about the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) strategy. Our session leaders taught us how the AIM strategy is used to inventory and quantify the value of NSHTs and their viewsheds so that we have baseline data to support management decisions. During the workshop portion of the conference, we visited the Pony Express National Historic Trail to practice different portions of the AIM strategy. This was especially useful to experience firsthand how to implement field measurements and see the detail in which characteristics are evaluated.

NORC took me out of my comfort zone, challenged me to learn new ideas and see the world of recreation from different viewpoints. I left Tahoe feeling inspired to continue my journey in recreation and dedicate more time to improving my GIS skills since so many projects included a geospatial component. I made genuine connections with fellow recreation professionals who I plan to keep in contact with over the course of my career. Overall, it was an amazing experience at NORC! I’m looking forward to my next professional development opportunity.

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