Stihl Inc. recently announced the continuation of its support of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) through its sponsorship of the NASPD Leadership School at the Oglebay National Training Center in West Virginia. The company provided a scholarship fund affording 15 state park staff from across the country the opportunity to participate in this unique school. In the five years it has funded the scholarship, Stihl, the first and only corporate sponsor of the school, has enabled a total of more than 50 park personnel from more than 15 states to attend.

“America’s State Parks are truly among our country’s greatest natural treasures,” said Roger Phelps, promotional communications manager for Stihl Inc. “Managing these parks is more challenging than ever, which makes training programs like this one extremely important.”

Facing a shortage of qualified managers in the state park system, the NASPD education program was developed as a two-year training program that consists of both distance education and on-site classes to educate future leaders of state parks. This year, 50 first-year participants and 44 second-year participants were enrolled — the highest attendance to date for the school. Stihl established the scholarship fund to enable park personnel from states facing budget cuts to attend.

“Stihl knows the value of leadership, and we are grateful for their ongoing commitment to the State Parks Leadership School,” said NASPD President Priscilla Geigis. “Their generous support benefits the public and our natural and cultural resources by assisting park professionals from across the country and fostering the next generation of leaders for America’s State Parks.”

More than 720 million people visit the more than 7,800 state parks each year with an economic impact of $20 billion, according to the NASPD. Managing the success of the parks in an environment of changing technologies, regulation and budget cuts has become a greater challenge, requiring skill sets in areas outside the normal forestry or natural resource management backgrounds of most park staff. Corporate sponsorships and support for programs like the NASPD leadership school have become an important part of the process, though care must be taken to avoid ethics or conflict issues

“The State Park Leadership School brings current and future decision makers and leaders of America’s State Parks to focus on the principles of stewardship, service and leadership,” said Phil Gaines, chair, board of regents, and director of state parks, South Carolina. “Stihl’s participation is a great example of how public and private entities can work together to promote education and conservation of our natural resources.”

First-year students on Stihl scholarship:

Dennis Kelley, Middleton, Mass.
Domenick Sacco, Pittsfield, Mass.
Christopher Crabtree, East Prairie, Mo.
Tyler Schwartze, Jefferson City, Mo.
Lee Wilbeck, Brookfield, Mo.

Second-year students on Stihl scholarship:

Brian Gray, Fargo, Ga.
Matt Owen, Dawsonville, Ga.
Suzanne Passmore, Adel, Ga.
Gary Best, Augusta, Maine
Andrew Cole, Lake Orion, Mich.
Bryan Bethel, Warsaw, Mo.
Anna Persell, Trenton, Mo.
James Hackett, Bastrop, Texas
Scott Taylor, Spring Branch, Texas
Rob Wessberg, Hartford, Wis.

Stihl also sponsors the NASPD annual conference and offers individual state parks support through safety and operational training.

To learn more about the program, please visit