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The search for a new park superintendent

By Laurie Ramie
January 15, 2014

[Editor’s note: This is an open letter from the Upper Delaware Council to the deputy regional director of the National Park Service, Northeast Region in Philadelphia.]

Dear Deputy Director Caldwell,

As Upper Delaware (UPDE) Scenic and Recreational River Superintendent Sean McGuinness prepares to retire effective January 24, 2014, the Upper Delaware Council, Inc. (UDC) would like to offer some insight into the special qualities that made Sean’s tenure so successful and that we encourage you to actively seek in naming his successor.

The superintendent sets the tone for the relationship that the community has with the National Park Service. In Sean’s four years, he cultivated positive interactions with local, county, state, and federal government officials; reached out to community and school groups; and offered an open ear to all individuals. He communicated honestly, requested feedback, listened to the input, and enthusiastically participated in events. Sean advocated for the UDC and other Cooperative Agreement partners, while setting appropriate expectations for optimum effectiveness by contractors and the UPDE staff. Perhaps most importantly, he understood and embraced the cooperative management model set forth in the Upper Delaware’s enabling legislation and in the River Management Plan.

The Foundation Document purpose statement that UPDE staff, with invited representation from the UDC, diligently developed in May 2013 reflects a distinction under which this park unit was created by Congress in 1978 and which Sean excelled at supporting: collaborative partnerships.

“The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River protects, conserves, and enhances the free-flowing character, exceptionally high water quality, and the scenic, recreational, ecological, cultural, and geological values of the Upper Delaware River valley through collaborative partnerships.”

The fact that over 90% of the 55,575.5 acres within the bi-state, five-county Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River designated boundary remains privately owned requires sensitivity by the superintendent to accept that land-use stewardship is based at the grassroots level and NPS jurisdiction is limited. Collaboration is therefore an absolute necessity.