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Ask A Former National Park Superintendent


As a member of the National Parks Traveler community for more than five years, I have noticed that many stories touch on aspects of National Park Service management and policies.

Often, comments on these stories have posed questions about NPS management procedures and practices. Sometimes the questions are answered by persons who know the subject. Sometimes the questions go unanswered.

It is heartening to know that so many people care about the national parks and want to be involved in improving the parks and their management. Along those lines, we are starting a new Q&A feature: Ask A Former National Park Superintendent.

Questions regarding NPS policies and practices can be submitted and I will answer one question or more every other week. Questions can be of any subject or park, but we will not address or comment on individual people or employees.

The goals of this effort will be to post accurate information, resources for further information where appropriate, and to encourage vigorous and informed discussion of national park management.

With that said, raise your questions via comments to this post, and I'll pick one or more to answer.

Costa Dillon is a recently retired veteran of 35 years with the National Park Service. He was the superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Homestead National Monument of America. He was also the Superintendent of the Horace M. Albright Training Center, responsible for the orientation training for all new NPS employees.

He is the recipient of the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award, the National Park Service Sequoia Award for Interpretation, and the Secretary of the Interior's Award for Long-Term Achievement in Diversity. He is an Honorary Fellow of Indiana University's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands and is currently an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Recreation Management and Policy at the University of New Hampshire.


Alright, we're closing this down. The comments are going way beyond the scope of the post and taking on a life of their own beyond the post. We'll now leave it to Costa to respond.

That's not evidence enough?

No it's not enough. What does the "leading causes" mean? One person drown and one person died in a care accident? Or thousands died by such means? "Leading cause" is meaningless when not put in context but it is a common claim (like x% reduction) by advocates of a position that don't have any real science to justify their stand.

Like I said, I don't know if Jim is right or wrong about the current level of LE being appropriate but I do know that citing a few annecdotals falls far short of providing a source to support a position. If I posted accounts of 3 people that didn't die or drown would that prove anything? Of course not.

As to "bean counting", Jim, are you telling me the NPS isn't already count the number of car deaths or the number drownings? Then how the heck do they know they are the leading cause?

And to help defuse things going forward, perhaps those with a question for Costa Dillon could phrase it as a question, a la Jeopardy, without fomenting over it, and other readers could restrain themselves from diving in at least until Costa supplies his answer.

And I'm trying to make more points than just potshots recently.

My comment here is that we've already started to get into the back and forth arguing of some issues [forgive my initial phrasing above] when __in my opinion__ this particular forum, the Ask-A-Supe forum, I would hope that topics would be mentioned and then the supe [sorry, but I don't recall his name] would pick out one at a time and take a shot at answering it from his experience and his point of view. Then he picks out the next one.

RickB, enjoy your posts, but I am not sure I understand both the Alaskaflyer and your take on the "usual bitching session". There is a lot of knowledge expressed in many of the posts both from those that have worked in the agency and those that just enjoy visiting the parks and other public lands or have extensive experience in other fields. There are those that have strong political positions, I may disagree with many of them, but my guess is they like this site because they do enjoy parks, at least I hope that is the reason. In some cases, some that post have a grievance, or question, an agency employment practice or other policy matter, fees for wilderness use for example, but thats OK, but it should not get to personal, at least in my view. In any case, please excuse my question, I do think you make some points.

I agree with Alaskaflyer, and was coming here to say as much.

"Ask a xxx" is a great idea. Gathering comments in the usual bitching session format from the usual suspects of all sorts probably won't be as productive as a [figurative] wooden box with a slot for notes to be dropped into.

My two cents on this topic, FWIW. I say again - the topic is a great idea.


I was surprised when the "Ask a Superintendent" feature - which is a great idea - was organized in this fashion. In my opinion the comments above show precisely why this format is a mistake. Better to receive questions by email and then select one and feature it and your new answer in a new post/article once a week. Then the usual suspects can opine ad nauseum in the comments under each individual article instead of trashing the whole space.

Here you've simply created a forum for unfocused bitching and any actual answers will be lost in the maelstrom.

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