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Graduation to Vocation: Kat Deutsch is Developing State Park Trails

Kat stoops by creek with her dog - Graduation to Vocation: Kat Deutsch is Developing State Park Trails - College of Natural Resources News NC State University

Kat Deutsch will graduate in May 2023 with a master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management. Upon graduation, she will continue to work as a state trails planner for North Carolina State Parks.

Deutsch first joined the agency’s planning team in February 2019, immediately following the completion of her bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. She was promoted to state trails planner in February 2023. 

As one of two state trails planners, Deutsch works on developing the trail plans for 12 state trails located throughout North Carolina. The state trails are units of the State Parks system, similar to state parks, but are comprised of multiple connected sections and rely heavily on partnerships. Each trail has a designated partner organization, so most of Deutsch’s day involves coordinating efforts to collaborate on the advocacy, promotion, planning and trail construction of the state trails.  

“Trails help promote healthy recreation and transportation opportunities by providing accessible routes that help people incorporate exercise into their daily routines,” Deutsch said. “The economic impact of trails are also an important benefit, as state trails can bring tourism and economic revenue into the more rural areas of our state.”

We recently spoke with Deutsch to learn more about how her time at the College of Natural Resources prepared her for a career in the field of parks and recreation. Check out the Q&A below.

How has the college prepared you for your position at North Carolina State Parks?

My time at the College of Natural Resources has been critical in giving me the skills and resources for my position at State Parks. Not only did it give me the knowledge background that I needed, but the connections and support that I have received from faculty have been immensely helpful. Faculty have always been there to give advice and mentorship when I needed it. They allowed me to pursue the development of various skills including both research and teaching opportunities. 

What’s your favorite memory or class from your time at NC State?

My favorite memory from my time at NC State was being a teaching assistant for PRT 380. I took the same class with the same professors during my undergraduate years, and it felt like a full circle moment to get the opportunity to teach the material this time. It was also an experience that I specifically asked for since I wanted to try my hand at teaching, so I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity as well. 

What is unique about you or your work?

This year was declared the “Year of the Trail,” and the state is aiming to be known as the “Great Trails State,” so it is a very exciting time to be working on trails in North Carolina. It is a unique opportunity to create a system of trails like no other in the county and make North Carolina distinctive and known for its availability and quality of interconnected trails. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. 

What motivated you to pursue your work?

Parks and recreation has had an important impact on my life and my health, which created a desire to share this with as many people as I can. I have a passion for fostering lasting connections between people and nature, because I believe in the power that this can have and the benefits that come with being outside. I also hope that my work inspires others to be stewards for the environment. 

What advice would you give students entering your major or field?

My main advice is to get as much and as diverse of experience as you can. As opportunities arise, don’t be close minded. When I first began my parks and recreation journey, I was convinced that I would be a park ranger and the thought of sitting in an office for any part of my job was not my ideal. However, I found a passion for planning and could not be happier with my current position.