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New NPS chief ranger outlines goals

May 5, 2011

UPPER DELAWARE REGION — Joe Hinkes isn’t new to the region, having held National Park Service posts here in the past; but the career law enforcement professional recently assumed the position of chief ranger for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (UDSSR) and has already begun forming fresh relationships with its various stakeholders.

Hinkes lives in Sandyston Township, NJ, just south of Port Jervis, NY with his wife Ann, son Liam and daughter Eleanor. He finds that his daily commute along the Delaware provides him with ample opportunities to connect with those who live, work and recreate in the river corridor.

Hinkes started with the park service in 1990 in Grand Teton National Park, and shares some history there with NPS Superintendent Sean McGuinness, as both men held the position of river rangers in the Tetons at different times.

“It’s quite a coincidence, as there are not a lot of us,” said Hinkes. “We both lived in the same place in the Tetons and had one of the best jobs in the park service, floating the Snake River.” Hinkes held a post in the Northeast region in 1993, then in 1996 transferred to White Sands in New Mexico. He returned to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in 1999 and is one of the few rangers to have worked all three districts there.

With a fairly new superintendent at the helm (McGuinness completed his first year here in February), Hinkes is helping to identify new river safety strategies to expand traditional approaches. Following a spate of drownings in recent years, no lives were lost in the Upper Delaware in 2010 due to recreational use. Hinkes would like to see this trend continue.

“One of the issues is that people tend to drown when they attempt to swim across the river,” he said. “A traditional response would be having a presence in those areas. But we need to add new non-traditional approaches involving all the stakeholders. The canoe liveries, campground operators, fire and rescue companies, townships and private landowners along the river—it impacts all of them when that happens. We’re looking at ways to educate the public.”

A draft Water Safety Program is being expanded, and includes a water safety communications plan. Some diverse populations of river users are drowning with greater frequency than others, according to McGuinness, so new outreach efforts target Spanish-speaking populations.