The National Recreation and Park Association has announced a shortened 2011 aquatics show and “blended” school. The new direction, in part, has sparked resignations from several longtime volunteers.

The National Aquatic Conference & Exposition (NAC) and National Aquatic Management School (NAMS) is scheduled for Feb. 16-19, at the Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego. The goal is to “showcase the value of aquatics as a community benefit,” said Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro, NRPA chief of knowledge and learning. Keynote speakers are Mick Nelson, facilities development director of USA Swimming, and Sue Pitt Anderson, programs and services director for USA Swimming.

The 2011 event will be three days shorter than in the past, which leaves less time for the in-person NAMS. But that will allow attendees to spend less time away from facility, office and family, and reduce travel costs through shorter hotel stays, said Fitzpatrick-Navarro.

Other changes are set to include more receptions and all-attendee meals (allowing for greater networking opportunities) and increased exhibit hall hours. Additionally, NAMS will have a revised format, which is set to include online learning and in-person training and networking. According to planners, this new blended learning format allows for increased education and CEUs, but still includes important face-to-face learning and peer networking.

But not everyone is happy with the state of NAC/NAMS. Eight out of the 11 members of NRPA’s Education and Professional Development Committee/Program Committees, resigned recently, though several of the resigning members terms were set to expire. The resignations included Chair Terri Smith, who has served on the National Aquatic Branch since 2002.

Ultimately Smith said she was unhappy with the direction NRPA was moving with respect to aquatics and the NAC/NAMS in particular. “The in-person, face-to-face networking that made the school and conference so unique and effective, unfortunately is the component that will suffer with the new, reduced format,” Smith said. “I personally feel the values that were once driven by NRPA members, have been successfully diluted, and replaced by decisions made by NRPA staff, without member input.”

Still, leadership at NRPA maintains the changes will ultimately strengthen NAC. “We understand that change can be hard,” said CEO, Barbara Tulipane.

Currently the NAC Program Committee is seeking interested speakers to submit education session proposals. The proposal deadline is Friday, Sept. 17, 2010.  Sessions can be submitted here.