For the first time, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have a woman as chief ranger.
The park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is the most visited national park in the United States.
Tennessee native Lisa Hendy has been selected to become the park’s chief ranger in April. Hendy is now the chief ranger at Big Bend National Park in Texas. She has experience working at some of the most well-known national parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
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“I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures,” Hendy said. “It will be a pleasure to be involved in the efforts to protect a place that was so instrumental in defining my passions and ultimately my career.”
A chief ranger oversees the division of the park that performs law enforcement duties, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, and backcountry operations, according to the National Park Service. The position also has responsibility for staffing an emergency communications center. About 240 permanent and 80-plus seasonal employees work at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Hendy is the 2011 recipient of the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award, a peer-nominated award that’s one of the highest honors for a park ranger. She also received an Intermountain Region Exemplary Service Award in 2007 for lifesaving efforts within the Grand Canyon National Park, according to the park service.
“Lisa has demonstrated incredible leadership in managing law enforcement, fire, and search and rescue operations at some of the nation’s busiest parks,” National Park Service Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a statement. “She’s built strong programs by investing in local partnerships with neighboring agencies to help make areas safer for visitors and residents.”
Hendy is a certified paramedic, firefighter, aviation manager and a swiftwater rescuer.
“She is going to be a great addition to the park’s management team,” Cash added.