New parkway superintendent visits
by Jeff Eason
Approximately 100 people attended a special reception at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum Thursday evening to meet with Woods.
"The Blue Ridge Parkway and all of the National Park Service areas are examples of the finest our nation has to offer," Woods said. "We get visitors from all over the world, who come just to see your parks.
"At every park I've worked, I've made it a point to speak with visitors, find out where they are from and ask them what they love about our parks. With the Blue Ridge Parkway, people always talk about the beauty and the scenic vistas."
Woods spoke to the audience after leaders of several conservation groups that work along the parkway spoke. Representatives from the National Committee for the New River, the Foothills Conservancy, the Blue Ridge Conservancy, the Conservation Fund and the Conservation Trust all spoke on how important it is to preserve undeveloped land along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Also present were N.C. Rep Jonathan Jordan, Avery County Commissioner Glenn Johnson, Watauga County Commissioner Billy Kennedy and Blowing Rock Commissioners Albert Yount, Doug Matheson, Sue Sweeting, Jim Steele and Ray Pickett.
Also in attendance was Harriett Davant, whose father, R. Getty Browning, helped determine where the Blowing Rock Parkway route would go in the 1930s.
Woods was first named superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Aug. 8 and reported to his new assignment in September. He follows in the footsteps of Phil Francis, the former superintendent who retired in 2012.
"Mark brings a strong and consistent track record of quality leadership to the superintendent post at the Blue Ridge Parkway," said National Park Service Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin at the time of Woods' being named to the post.
"He understands the value of the parkway as a member of the larger Blue Ridge community. His collaborative skills, operational experience and commitment to park neighbors, the visiting public and the parkway's employees and partners will serve the National Park Service and the Southeast Region well," Austin said.
Woods, 53, is a career National Park Service employee who began his career in 1980 as a seasonal interpreter in South Carolina. In addition to his 16-year tenure as superintendent at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Woods served as superintendent at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro and as acting superintendent at Virgin Islands National Park and the Natchez Trace Parkway, which spans Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
He has also served several times in the Southeast Regional Office, once as the associate regional director for natural and cultural resource management and partnerships and twice as a deputy regional director.
Woods moved up through the National Park Service ranks as a park interpretive ranger, a resource management and law enforcement ranger, a chief ranger and superintendent or several park units.
His other assignments included parks such as Ninety Six National Historic Site in South Carolina, Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Tennessee and Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.
His career also included employment with the South Carolina Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism.
Woods was recognized with the National Park Service's Superintendent of the Year Award in 1997 for outstanding leadership in the field of resource management. In 2004, he received the National Park Service Sustained Park Accessibility Achievement Award and in 2005 he received the "Take Pride in America" Federal Land Manager Award.
Woods has experience in gateway community planning, major facility design and construction, land acquisition planning, protection of viewsheds, wilderness management and general management planning.
A native of South Carolina, Woods received a bachelor of science degree in sociology from Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., in 1982, and has completed studies at Texas A&M University and the University of California at Davis.
He and his wife, Ginny, have three children, Maggie, Mark II and Grayson, and a granddaughter, Abbie.