SRU students begin 5,100-mile National Park tour


Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is the 15th oldest national park in the United States and is one of 10 stops on the SRU Park and Resource Management “Centennial ROCK Tour.”

May 6, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - While most Slippery Rock University students are packing up their belongings and heading home for summer break, 27 park and resource management majors are gathering their outdoor gear for a 5,100-mile educational adventure to America's premier western parks.

John Lisco, associate professor of parks and recreation, is taking students on a two-week, 10-stop tour of national parks in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Students leave at 5 a.m., May 10.

john lisco


Traveling in three vans, the group will drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma, before heading west for base camping, hiking and educational experiences in Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

The May 10-24 "Centennial Rock Tour" will include one park unit for each decade of the park service. Students will visit the:

  • Petrified Forest National Park;
  • Grand Canyon National Park;
  • Sunset Crater National Monument;
  • Wupatki National Monument;
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument;
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area;
  • Mesa Verde National Park;
  • Canyonlands National Park;
  • Arches National Park; and
  • Colorado National Monument

"I have never been to the southwestern portion of our country, so I am very excited," said James Baker of Edinboro, a geology minor. "I can't wait to see the interesting rock formations at parks like Grand Canyon and Arches."

Baker, an Eagle Scout, said he knows how to pack light. He is taking along his phone, battery packs and a solar charger to stay connected.

"I am excited to meet professionals in the field and learn what sort of trainings and experiences will help me get a job in the parks in the future," he said.

The National Park Service, which operates a portfolio of 411 parks encompassing 83 million acres, will turn 100 August. 25.

"I've been trying to do a trip like this for 15 years and am excited that we have the support to make it happen for the NPS Centennial," Lisco said. "I got tired sitting in the classroom and talking about the Colorado River and talking about the challenges facing the national parks, and nobody's been there. Hardly any of our students have ever been out west."

Lisco said the trip's mission is to talk with rangers from various divisions, see the landscapes and learn strategies for protecting natural, cultural and historical resources.

"Students will learn of the various strategies and associated challenges regarding the management of these special resources," Lisco said. "Students will also broaden their understanding of park protection, emergency services, interpretation and visitor services."

For participating seniors, Lisco said the excursion would be a capstone to their undergraduate studies. For underclassmen, he expects it to be an "awakening" experience.

"The park system itself is very dynamic, and students will get to learn from interpreters, resource managers, scientists, protection rangers and emergency services personnel," he said. "In every one of the parks, they will be able to see the spectacular resources and understand the challenges and issues we discuss in their courses."

Highlights will include a three-mile hike in Grand Canyon, a private tour of Balcony House in Mesa Verde, a night sky interpretive program at Arches and an archeological talk at Wupatki.

Lisco said students paid $700 each for the field trip, which covers van rentals, fuel, hotel and campground fees, entrance fees, tour fees, t-shirts, food and camping supplies. The parks and recreation department purchased several camping items and a variety of equipment to help.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |