Superintendent finds bonanza at Glacier ParkChas Cartwright went to work as Glacier National Park’s new superintendent at a blistering pace, booking full daily schedules and fitting some hefty hikes into his free time. After three years as superintendent of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Cartwright started at Glacier on June 25, just in time to serve as master of ceremonies at the celebration for the 75th anniversary of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
By: By Jom Mann, Daily Inter Lake, The Jamestown Sun
KALISPELL, Mont. — Chas Cartwright went to work as Glacier National Park’s new superintendent at a blistering pace, booking full daily schedules and fitting some hefty hikes into his free time.
After three years as superintendent of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Cartwright started at Glacier on June 25, just in time to serve as master of ceremonies at the celebration for the 75th anniversary of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
“I’ve been at busy jobs before but this has been like being shot out of a cannon,” said Cartwright, a wiry 58-year-old runner, biker, skier, swimmer and kayaker.
Cartwright said his schedule mainly has involved getting to know people who know Glacier well.
“I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the people who work here, and visiting with people out in the park,” said Cartwright during an interview.
Cartwright said he also has made a point of exploring some of the 1 million-acre park during the past two months, at one point venturing deep into the Waterton Valley south of Goat Haunt with longtime Glacier staffer Jack Potter.
“It’s a huge piece of real estate, and if you don’t have a sense for what’s going on with that landscape, you won’t be as effective as manager,” said Cartwright, who will lead the annual superintendent’s hike into Belly River country in September.
He doesn’t have a favorite area in the park.
“My favorite part of the park is whatever place I last went to,” he said diplomatically.
Cartwright, a 21-year National Park Service veteran, is following in the footsteps of recently retired Mick Holm for a second time as superintendent. Holm was also Cartwright’s predecessor at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in North Dakota.
“I have really appreciated coming in behind someone who was a professional park superintendent in every sense,” Cartwright said of Holm.
Cartwright has held other superintendent positions: at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and Hovenweep National Monument in Utah and Colorado. He said working at Shenandoah was interesting and challenging, but he eagerly took the position at Glacier.
“My entire career before that has been in the West,” he said. “I just had a hankerin’ for, an achin’ for, the West.”
Cartwright recently met with a group of Glacier retirees who live in the Flathead area, gleaning whatever he could about the park.
“Just hearing their stories and their connections to the park ... they bring all sorts of perspectives,” said Cartwright, who has learned that people are passionate about the park and the way it should be run.
Cartwright discussed a variety of challenges the park faces.
At the top, he plans to concentrate on the park’s fiscal affairs with the goal of maximizing limited funds for staffing, operations and facilities.
“How do we make the best use of those tax dollars we receive? My intention is to take a real close look at that,” he said.
“We have been at the receiving end of some good base funding increases the last few years when most federal agencies haven’t been,” he said. “But the expectation for us to continue to receive more money is unrealistic.”
Glacier will have a long-term challenge in paying for reconstruction of Sun Road, a project with a price tag that has been climbing.
The sheer logistics of working on a remote alpine road with short seasons increases the cost, he said, but dramatic inflationary trends for steel, asphalt and fuel make it even more expensive.
But the project is a priority, he said, because Sun Road “is a defining feature of this park.”
Cartwright said “meat-and-potatos” operations and maintenance will tend to dominate Glacier’s funding. He bluntly projects that other desirable projects, such as construction of a west side visitors center, are unlikely in the near future.
“I certainly think we need a better facility than what we have at Apgar now,” he said, referring to the small Apgar Visitor Center. “Is a project like that doable? Yes, it is.”
But it is the type of project that will require a public-private partnership to accomplish, he said.
A new visitor center was once a showcase goal for the Glacier National Park Fund, but those plans changed.
“I have the impression that there was very intense interest, but the price tag was so high that there was concern that it would distract” from helping pay for other important work in the park, Cartwright said.
Potential open pit mining and coal-bed methane de-velopment in the Canadian Flathead will continue to be another priority for Glacier. The park has a long-term management plan that explicitly calls for protection of water quality and the primitive character of the North Fork Flathead drainage downstream from the potential development, Cartwright noted.
“We’ll continue to be active in taking advantage of opportunities to express our concern,” he said.
Cartwright said he also is interested in maintaining scientific work in the park, largely with the help of a strong partnership with U.S. Geological Survey researchers who are based in Glacier. Cartwright said he has an upcoming meeting scheduled with the USGS staff.
“Science that helps you answer future and current management issues is really what’s needed,” he said.
After a couple of months living in park housing, Cartwright and his wife, Lynda, recently bought a home in Columbia Falls.
“Now we actually get to move into a place and make a home,” he said.