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Taylor takes charge of San Juan Island National Park
Lee Taylor is expecting.
About 250,000 visitors a year, or thereabouts.
That’s roughly the number of people who visit the National Parks Service property on the westside of San Juan Island every year.
Taylor, a 30-year Parks Service veteran and, as importantly, San Juan Island National Historical Park’s newly appointed superintendent, knows visitors go “hand in hand” with the job. Still, she expects a few more visitors to drop by her new home than she has perhaps been used to in the past, once she puts down roots on the island. The first day of her new assignment is April 22.
“I have friends on the island and I’ve been here several times,” Taylor said in a phone interview, while on a break in a Parks Service training session in San Francisco. “It’s just such a beautiful, beautiful location. And the size of the community really appeals to me too. There’s quite an intriguing mix of history and beauty there, and I really like the interplay of the two.”
Currently the chief of interpretation and education at Mount Rainier National Park, Taylor will tackle her first assignment as a Parks superintendent at San Juan Island’s national park. In her current role at Mount Rainier, Taylor manages a year-round staff of nine employees, which swells to about 30 or more in the summer season. The number of employees under her command and her annual budget at Rainier are roughly equivalent to those of San Juan’s national historical park.
At Mount Rainier, Taylor is in charge of everything having to do with educational programs, visitors centers and getting information into the hands of visitors. That includes a volunteer program that’s 1,800 members strong. She was district interpreter at Rainier, which meant supervision of the park’s popular and busy Paradise area, before being promoted to chief interpreter about three years ago.
“Lee has a great deal of energy, creativity and passion, and excels at engaging communities,” National Parks Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz said of Taylor in a prepared statement. “She has a collaborative approach that will lend itself well to working with the community to prepare the park for its next century of stewardship and engagement.”
Taylor succeeds former superintendent Peter Dederich, who recently transferred to the NPS Seattle regional office. She also replaces former acting superintendent Steve Gibbons, who took on the leadership role at the park following Dederich’s departure last year.
Taylor has a daughter in her junior year at the University of Washington and a dog, a black Lab, at home.
“I’m definitely a dog lover,” she said. “I think it’s very healthy to have a dog around the office.”
Taylor said she’s aware of the recent turmoil over enforcement of rules governing the park. She said rules help the park achieve to its mission and protect its natural resources, and that they have their place.
Tension between National Parks and communities with active “interest groups” that regularly use park property is not uncommon, she said. Still, Taylor believes disagreements can be overcome and bridges can be built.
“One of the things I’m committed to is to rebuild the relationship with the community,” she said. “I believe we can almost always find a win-win solution.”