Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway - Career at the Gillespie Gap District

In January 1983 we became the victims of a rare event in the National Park Service, a transfer due to a reorganization of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The decision was made to eliminate the Interpretive Division of the park and place those responsibilities under what had been the Resource Management and Protection Division. As part of this realignment, nine people were moved to different districts within the park, given a one grade promotion, and called Assistant District Rangers.

My family and I preferred not to move since we were so happy at the Bluffs District, but I was told that I could move to Gillespie Gap as assistant district ranger or be lateraled to the same location with no promotion. Park Management insisted that this was not a forced move. So my wife once again left a teaching job she loved and we packed up our five month old son and moved about 100 miles to Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

This move was painful for us leaving many good friends behind. It cut our family income in half even though I took the promotion since my wife was unable to get another teaching job in that area. We moved from a well maintained high quality park house to one of much inferior quality and in poor and filthy condition. When we went to visit the house a couple of weeks before moving in we found the walls to be in terrible stained and damaged condition. I went to the district maintenance supervisor to see if the house could be painted before we moved and was literally chased out of his office. I remember that very night our son sleeping in a baby carrier while my wife and I painted the living/dining room with materials we bought locally.

I went from an area where a great team of people worked together to a district dominated by conflict between employees to the point of disrupting efficiency and effectiveness. Even my wife had to put up with mistreatment and open hostility from the maintenance supervisor for the district. As assistant district ranger I was responsible for supervising all the day to day operations in protection, resources management, and interpretation. This included operations in two campgrounds, two visitor centers, concessions operations, two major picnic areas, and Linville Falls - one of the heaviest used trail areas in the park.

Needless to say due to our circumstances this was the lowest point in my career and I began to apply to positions throughout the country with the national park service and a variety of other agencies. The first job offer I received was as the James River District Ranger at the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We jumped at the opportunity to leave, even though it was in the same park and moved in June in 1985.

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