The Park Management program was started in 1970 by two faculty from the Physical Education Department. John Nicholas and Tom Smith were coaches with the vision to create a unique department. The current full-time faculty, Chris Cruz, has over 20 years of work experience with federal and county park agencies. The Program has evolved over the years in response to changing needs of the numerous agencies served by the Program, input from the Department's Advisory Committee, alumni working in parks, and direct involvement by the Department's full-time and adjunct faculty in various local agencies.
The current Advisory Board represent city, county, regional, state, and federal agencies. These lands include urban parks, open space districts, state parks and preserves, and federal forests, parks and wilderness areas.
The Program meets the needs of three different groups of students. The typical career-oriented college student, the professional wishing a career change and the park professional. The later enroll in our Program courses to enhance their skills, obtain in-service training and comply with changing professional standards. The Park Management Program awards an academic certificate in Park Management, and certificates for specialized training skills. West Valley College confers an Associates of Science Degree in Park Management.
The Department provides specialized custom course development and in-service training to over 15 agencies upon request. These courses include four-wheel driver safety and operations, power winch use, hazardous materials response, ranger safety and legal updates, technical rescue, geographic information systems, wildland fire suppression, and hazardous tree identification.
Students typically work seasonally (summer break and some throughout the year) while attending the Park Management Program and continue to do so after gradation until hired full-time with an agency. Many students continue their formal education toward their bachelor's degree by attending four-year university. The Park Management Program has formal and informal articulation agreements with several California universities. These institutions include but are not limited to California State Universities at Humboldt, Chico, San Jose, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Public land managers recognize the West Valley College Park Management Program as being one of the few outstanding programs that produce quality graduates in the field of Park Management. Agencies actively recruit through the Program. Faculty are continually rewarded with letters and phone calls from park managers who hire West Valley College Park Management students and alumni for seasonal and full-time positions. This positive reinforcement confirms that what has evolved over the last three decades continues to be the shining example of a successful career-education program.