Park service prepares for reorganization

The Associate Press

COOLIDGE Eventually, visitors to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument will have more to see than the "Big House" of Compound A and the ball court next to the picnic area.

That time is at least a few years away. But Ruins Superintendent Don Spencer and peers in the National Park Service are already planning for the changes to result from the proposed restructuring of the NPS.

Now 77 years old, the NPS has been run the same way for the last 60 years. That way is a military hierarchy. As part of Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review, the NPS and other federal agencies will be streamlined.

"We're looking at all our procedures," Spencer explained. "Whatever does not contribute significantly to the end product (will be eliminated)."

It's a bureaucrat's nightmare no more (or at least very few) middle managers and paperwork. For example, the NPS' Washington, D.C., headquarters will cut its staff from about 200 to 20, and will only deal with policy.

In all, the NPS intends to eliminate 1,325 of its middle-management positions, while creating more lower-level field positions.

For the ruins, that will mean one or two more park rangers added to the staff.

Spencer says this will allow the ruins to add more interpretive and educational programs and, he hopes, open up other parts of the monument. Compound A takes up only a small part of the monument, which has about 472 acres containing 60 documented archaeological sites. Compound B, with two pyramid-type structures, is northeast of Compound A. This was the center of Hohokam culture from about 1200 to 1450.

"I'll be able to do more because the staff will be able to do what they were hired to do," Spencer said. "It will get us out of the paper maze."

He explained that the main job of a park ranger is interpretation and education. But, now, they spend only about 60 percent of their time on that. The rest is spent doing things like fee collection and housekeeping.

While the idea behind the restructuring is to improve efficiency and quality, Spencer said some short- and long-term problems are possible.

Most immediately, he and his staff will have to adjust to being in a new region. As part of the Rocky Mountain Region, the ruins and the NPS' 20 other Arizona sites will have to get to know a new group of people, both at the Santa Fe regional headquarters and the other parks in the region. As part of the restructuring, the NPS is going from 10 regions to seven. The Rocky Mountain Region includes Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

"I hope that does not affect (us)," Spencer said. "I hope we won't become a stepchild."

The ruins are now in the Western Region, with headquarters in San Francisco. Being in the Rocky Mountain Region will help local staff because more of the sites in the region are small cultural-type parks like the ruins, he said. More of the sites will have more in common. For example, Santa Fe headquarters has an expert team for preserving ruins.

The restructuring also involves professionalizing the NPS from top to bottom. If a park ranger wants to climb the career ladder, he will have to continue his education. Essentially, he will have to have at least a four-year college degree, do professional research and be an expert in his field. Because of the restructuring, the time to meet those requirements will be there. But, in some cases, individuals may not have the desire.

"As you flatten out an organization, you get less upward mobility," Spencer said.

Many park rangers now have no college degree, though they may have taken some classes, he said. If those rangers want to keep their jobs, they will have to get a degree.

Such individual responsibility is the key to the restructuring.

By eliminating unnecessary work at lower levels and getting rid of middle managers, park rangers will have more control over their job. At the park level, staff will act more like a team. Rangers will have to cooperate to get things done, with the superintendent acting more like a coach. The idea is that the people who do a job are the best to make it. Ultimately, the NPS will employ only "the cream of the crop," he said.

"That's the fun part," Spencer said. "It's not up to me. I say, 'It's up to you four to cooperate.'

"If they come up with a program, I just need to make sure it follows the (NPS') broad-based policies."

Financial limitations would be the only other obstacle to doing a program.

Designing those programs should result from the research part of the job.

But, empowering employees can only do so much, he said. With the empowerment will come a loss of learning experiences that rangers now get at successive parks as they climb the hierarchy. With the empowerment also may come a loss of initiative and what Spencer calls an entrenchment mentality following the status quo.

"People are reluctant to change things they changed," said Spencer, admitting he has changed many things in his nine years at the ruins and would be reluctant to change some of those changes.

The restructuring is expected to be approved by Congress in January or February. NPS Director Roger Kennedy believes the restructuring will be complete by the end of 1995, Spencer said, though he said he and some of his colleagues expect that it won't be done sooner than 1997.

"It's going to take a whole new orientation," he said.

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