PORT ANGELES (AP) — Most every employee of the National Park Service has an ideal park where he or she would like to work.
The new superintendent of Olympic National Park has finally arrived at the top of her list: “It’s Olympic National Park — do you need to say more?”
Sarah Creachbaum will be Olympic National Park’s 15th superintendent and is taking over from Karen Gustin, who was named to the post in 2008 and retired this year after 30 years in the National Park Service.
“The mountain-sea intersection is something I’ve always loved,” Creachbaum tells The Peninsula Daily News. “The rain forests are also incredibly rich and diverse.”
She most recently served as superintendent of Haleakala (hah-leh-AH’-kah-lah) National Park on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Creachbaum was drawn to apply for the position at Olympic National Park because of the immense natural beauty the Olympic Peninsula has to offer.
Creachbaum, 54, began work last week as Olympic National Park’s newest superintendent and is settling into a rental home in Port Angeles with her husband, Bob Rossman, a retired Park Service planner and hydrologist, and their border collie, Jimmy.
She is the third woman named as superintendent of Olympic National Park after Gustin and Maureen E. Finnerty, named 22 years ago as the park’s first woman superintendent.
“That’s a nice group of women to follow,” Creachbaum said.
As she settles into her job, she said she has been working closely with Deputy Superintendent Todd Suess, who was acting superintendent during the search for a replacement for Gustin.
“We’re very excited to have her here,” Suess said in a Friday interview.
Suess said one of the first things Creachbaum will have on her plate is helping to manage the development of the park’s wilderness stewardship plan, public comment on which is expected to start next year.
The wilderness stewardship plan, required of all national parks, lays out how a given park should best manage land designated as wilderness within the park boundaries and explains what uses — be it hiking, camping or backcountry skiing — work best for each wilderness area, Creachbaum explained.
“It’s not every use on every acre; it’s the best use of that acre,” Creachbaum said.
Roughly 1,300 square miles, or 95 percent of the 922,000-acre park, is designated wilderness, which is defined as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” according to the Wilderness Act passed by Congress in 1964.
Creachbaum will oversee 100 park staff year-round and 300 total during the busier summer.
“Parks are tough places to manage, and I truly think you have to have very interested, smart people at the table to help you solve the complex problems,” Creachbaum said.
While at the 34,366-acre Haleakala National Park, Creachbaum said, one of the most enjoyable parts of her job was working with the local community, especially native Hawaiians — efforts she said she would love to replicate with the North Olympic Peninsula’s native tribes.
“Understanding their relationship with the landscape, particularly their traditional ecological knowledge, (was) really exciting stuff,” she said.
Matt Brown, the acting superintendent at Haleakala, said in a Friday interview that he was personally unhappy to see Creachbaum go but is thrilled for the staff of Olympic National Park. “She is just a fantastic leader,” Brown said.
He said he especially admired the way Creachbaum connected with the community around the park.
Creachbaum has had nearly every job possible in her 29-year National Park Service career, and Brown said this shows in her management style and willingness to do her share of hard work.
“It’s not just attending a meeting with some legislators, but getting muddy in a taro patch with some of the cultural resources staff,” Brown said.
“She’s not afraid to get dirt under her fingernails.”