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Posted 10/29/2015

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By Patrice Creel
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs

Over her 33 years of federal service, ERDC-EL Research Biologist Dr. Kathleen Perales has a long history of leadership and accomplishments, resulting in positive impacts on parks and natural resources and recognition from members of her profession.

In fact, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) honored Perales Sept. 17 with the highest recognition in the United States for outstanding contributions to the promotion and development of recreation, parks and conservation, the Cornelius Amory Pugsley Medal.

In her acceptance remarks at the Academy’s awards banquet in Las Vegas, Nevada, Perales said, “I’m blessed by all the people who made this happen. It is really a recognition of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and all the work that goes into making the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Community of Practice (CoP) work.”

In her introduction, it was noted that Perales addresses issues associated with USACE parks and recreation, working beyond the USACE CoP with members throughout the profession; including the World Leisure Organization, the Society for Outdoor Recreation Professionals, National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and its cohort groups including the Armed Forces Network and Parks and Conservation Network.

Long-time ERDC team member

When asked about her career, Perales said, “I started as a student at Waterways Experiment Station on June 1, 1982, now totaling 33 years of federal service at ERDC, since the student years counted. I am currently with the Ecosystem Evaluation and Engineering Division, Ecological Resources Branch and worked in Vicksburg until I moved to New Braunfels, Texas, in 2011.

In 2012, my permanent duty station was changed to the Fort Worth District, Canyon Lake Office in the beautiful hill country of Canyon Lake, Texas, but I continued in the same position with ERDC.”

Perales’ major career milestones transitioned into service for fellow Corps team members, highlighted by her leading the early website development of today’s NRM Gateway. Today’s site features six main CoP pages with four additional sites for park rangers, 17 business practices’ selections, seven NRM topic menus and 12 featured or new associated websites. The system serves the visiting public, as well with information on the more than 400 USACE lakes and river projects and integrates to the federal interagency system of Recreation.gov.

This impressive knowledge collection first developed by Perales’ team is located at http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil. Perales’ goal for the system is to serve as a platform for future leaders in and outside USACE, sharing resources and knowledge for visitors’ recreation and wellness.

History of the NRM website

While visiting Corps projects in the 1990s, Perales came up with the idea to consolidate published volumes of needed and helpful information into an accessible website for the Corps’ more than 2,000 park rangers.

In 1999, Perales led a team to create such a website for organizing, scanning, assembling and posting thousands of pages of documents, eventually evolving into a new Corps website known as “The Gateway."

“I could see that a user with good research skills and a way with search terms could locate the right kind of information, the information that would solve a problem, provide needed instruction, or advance a career. This would be a way to consolidate the Corps massive policy documents and manuals for everything from water safety to landscaping to organizing park activities,” Perales said.

Fifteen years later, this pioneer knowledge management website also posts access to information from other conservation and recreational groups.

“New Corps rangers who want to get involved in the Gateway should look at the kinds of content we have published over the years. Then explore an area that you are personally interested in, and contribute a short ‘Good Enough to Share’ item, or a more thorough success story. There is plenty of room for growth and change, ” Perales said.

ERDC well-represented

Perales continues to share her expertise as she represents ERDC at highly-placed leadership levels. Perales has served as president of the Armed Forces Recreation Society (AFRS). She served as a the AFRS trustee to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) board, National Society for Park Resources board, the NRPA executive committee, and was elected in 2007 to AAPRA and has served a term on their board. She currently serves on the board of governors of the Foundation for Sustainable Parks and Recreation.

Perales led an effort to include military recreation programs in the Academy’s Gold Medal Awards program, which recognizes military installations and enhances the sharing of best practices among military recreation professionals.

“This award will continue showcasing the great works of military programs into the future. Giving professionals a platform to share their knowledge and programs with others is fundamental in building future leaders in the profession and key to what I set out to accomplish,” Perales said.