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Monty Christiansen

Tue, 07/01/2003 - 8:00am
Last updated
5 months ago
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You may not know him, but you've played where he works

Monty Christiansen is married with two daughters. He is obviously a big Penn State fan having been a professor there for over 30 years, but more surprisingly he is an avid wrestling fan. Not the fake kind that you see on cable TV, but a fan of college wrestling. For years Christiansen has been a regular at the NCAA National Tournament. He is also a collector of antique Navel First edition books. 

“He likes fine red wine and good food, to which I can personally attest,” says Ken Kutska, currently the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) chairperson.

Christiansen has been, and will likely continue to be a keystone figure in the playground industry. Since 1985, he has been an undisputed leading expert in his field. He has been a landscape architect for the National Park Service, the St. Louis County (Mo.) Parks and Recreation Department, and the Michigan design firm of Philip Flores & Associates. Christiansen has specialized in recreation area/facility planning and management for the past 36 years and playground safety for the past 15 years. He has been a faculty member at Penn State University since 1969, where he teaches park and recreation facility planning and management. 

“Monty, Fran Wallach, and myself were the founders of the program, going back to 1989. We went to NSPR Branch of NRPA to get help to sponsor the program,” says Kutska.

Christiansen is one of the founders and current Board Members of the NPSI. 

“We had no money or help in getting the first Institute off the ground, which was held in Baltimore at the National NRPA Congress,” recalls Kutska.

To launch the NPSI, the founders organized an institute. “We had 126 attendees with almost 20 experts who prepared monographs on subjects outlined in our body of knowledge course content outline,” says Kutska with the beam that success brings.

Christiansen is a member of or a part of almost every playground association. He is on the Executive Board and World Council of the International Play Association, a member of the American Society for Testing & Materials Committees for Public Playground Equipment, Playground Surfacing, Soft Contained Play Equipment, and Play Spaces for Children Under the Age of Two.

Christiansen’s literary accomplishments encompass the entire playground industry, including being the editor of “Play It Safe, An Anthology of Playground Safety” (1992, revised 1994 and 1996). This book was also translated into Chinese. He is also the editor of “Points About Playgrounds — A Compilation of Significant Information” (1993).  His correspondence course in park planning and evaluation was judged to be the best in the United States in 1985.  His book Vandalism Control Management, originally written as a monograph under contract to the National Park Service, was published in the U.S. and Great Britain in 1983. He is the author of the “Park Planning Handbook.” This book was published in the U.S. as well as Great Britain in 1977 and translated into Portuguese. The “Park Planning Handbook” has become the standard text in the field of park planning.  In addition to these publications, Christiansen has written numerous journal articles, presented uncountable professional papers in the areas of park planning, management and has a column in this magazine.

Christiansen was the chairperson for the 1995 and 1999 International Playground Safety Conferences and has been a consultant for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and several municipal agencies throughout the United States. He is a member of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and has served on the Writing Committee for the first U.S. Standard for Public Playgrounds. Christiansen has been appointed twice to the Pennsylvania Citizens’ Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee for preparation of statewide outdoor recreation plans.

Christiansen has traveled the world over speaking on playground safety in Canada, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, England, Australia, Denmark, Scotland, Finland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina and over fifty venues in the U.S. This man is a world-renowned expert with a constant schedule of international appearances.

Christiansen has won numerous awards, including the NRPA National Distinguished Professional Award for outstanding contributions to the profession, the NSPR Founders’ Award for Excellence, the Penn State University Lindbeck Award for Excellence in Teaching, and PRPS F.M. Coombs Award for highest professional achievement.  He was designated a Fellow by the NRPA Mid-Atlantic Region and received the National University Continuing Education Association Distinguished Award for his correspondence course in park planning, and was elected to the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.

There is not much in the playground world that Christiansen has not played a part in, and that may be his goal—to play.


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