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July 31, 2014

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From left, National Park Service rangers Susan Brown and Amy Renfranz are with Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis at the Sept. 11, 2012, ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Linn Cove Viaduct near Blowing Rock. File photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2013-03-15 08:33:46
Last modified: 2013-03-15 08:33:46

Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent retiring April 1

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,” Francis said. “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,”he said. “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, nonprofit 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,” Francis said. “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.”

 “At some point, I think that the American people will see that maintaining our parks is essential to maintaining our pride in our country,” he said.

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,” he said.

In retirement, Francis hopes to continue to stay close to the great outdoors.

“I hope to remain active and involved in protecting our mountains,” Francis said. “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 said, “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 have,” he said.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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