By Sally Voth
The National Park Service has announced a new superintendent to oversee both Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park and Shenandoah National Park.
Jim Northup, superintendent of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, was selected to helm the two parks, according to a parks service news release. He has been with the National Park Service for 32 years and joined in 1979 as a seasonal ranger at Shenandoah National Park.
A site administrator for Cedar Creek and Belle Grove should be announced within the next week, the release states.
The anticipated move of appointing one superintendent for both parks had been protested by the federal advisory commission for the 10-year-old Middletown park.
The proposal was discussed at a Dec. 20 commission meeting with Gay Vietzke, deputy director of the park service's Northeast Region, saying she'd take the feedback back to the park service.
She'd said the intent behind joining the parks under one superintendent was to provide more services to the newer park.
The superintendents at both parks have recently retired.
At the December meeting, Stan Hirschberg, who was representing one of the park's partners, the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, said he feared such a move would make the park "subservient" to Shenandoah National Park.
"I think we're much smaller and we're going to get what's left over," he'd said. "I don't think any one of us is in favor of this. I think it's a step backwards."
The commission had asked the park service to hold off on making a decision until another meeting could be held.
On Thursday, the commission chairman, Patrick Farris, struck a conciliatory note.
"The federal advisory commission did give the National Park Service the counsel and advice that we felt it was in the best interest of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park to remain an independent unit within the National Park Service," he said. "The National Park Service did listen to that advice, but elected not to take it.
"I really do sincerely look forward to the development of this park. It's a treasure for this community. It's very important, both to me personally, as well as the federal advisory commission, to see this park succeed."
Farris said he hoped the commission could make progress at the park with a new site administrator.
Northup has been in his current post since 2005, according to the park service's news release. While there, he has improved community relations, helped design and reconstruct its main access road with local officials, started several park programs and been instrumental in setting up the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation, it states.
Northup also has worked at Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, and Big Bend national parks, according to the release, as well as Cape Hatteras and Fire Island national seashores and Buffalo National River.
On Thursday afternoon, Cherie Butler, acting chief of communications and legislative affairs for the National Park Service, said Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach wouldn't be available to discuss the decision to go against the advisory commission's wishes until Friday.
The advisory commission's next meeting is scheduled for March 21 in the Middletown Town Council chambers, according to the Federal Register.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org