Parkway superintendent to retire
by Jeff Eason
The National Park Service has announced the upcoming retirement of Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis.
Francis, 60, is expected to step down on April 1. He has spent the last 41 years working for the National Park Service and was appointed superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2005.
"It's not going to be easy to walk away from my job, the Parkway and the National Park Service," said Francis. "I've thoroughly enjoyed my seven-and-a-half years here. I have enjoyed being part of the Parkway team and getting to know hundreds of people who are our partners, friends and neighbors up and down the Parkway."
Francis remarked upon several significant events during his
tenure as Parkway superintendent.
"There are several things that stand out," said Francis. "We've completed the Parkway's first General Management Plan that will be the guiding document for the Parkway for decades to come.
We had a very successful 75th anniversary celebration that brought together neighboring communities, Parkway staff, non-profit partners, the two states (Virginia and North Carolina), and volunteers. It was a great time and allowed for needed focus on Parkway issues.
"We strengthened partnerships with a number of organizations, states and communities. The visitor center in Asheville was constructed and is doing well."
Francis acknowledged that there are several challenges facing the Blue Ridge Parkway and the National Park Service, especially considering federal budget cuts that have taken place recently.
"From my chair, I think we have to find a different way of doing our business," said Francis. "It appears that funding will continue to be a great challenge and our capacity to serve our visitors and protect our resources will be diminished. While partnerships will allow us some opportunity to mitigate our lost capacity, I don't think it will be enough.
"I am optimistic, however, that we will find a way as the National Park Service is charged with protecting very special places across our country and is the keeper of our country's heritage.
"At some point, I think that the American people will see that maintaining our parks is essential to maintaining our pride in our country."
According to Francis, a successor to his position has not yet been named.
"There are many talented people who could come here and do a great job," said Francis.
In retirement, Francis hopes to continue to stay close to the great outdoors.
"I hope to remain active and involved in protecting our mountains," said Francis. "I enjoy travel, hiking, and golf. I will also have the chance to spend more time with my wife and friends."
When asked about his favorite places on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Francis stated, "I certainly enjoy the area around Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain and Boone. If I listed all of my favorite places, it would be quite a long list in both North Carolina and Virginia.
"What a great resource we all