By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Sarah Creachbaum, 54, who became head of the 922,000-acre park in November, told members of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce on Monday that Olympic will be “the last stop on my career path.”
“For better or worse for all of you, I'll be around for quite some time,” she said, in response to a question from Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd.
“You should have some continuity for a while.”
Creachbaum replaced Karen Gustin, who was named to the post in 2008 and retired in just four years to cap a 30-year career with the National Park Service.
Creachbaum said she will spend her first year getting to know people and improving the workforce environment for the park's 125 full-time employees and roughly 100 seasonal workers.
“I'd like to ensure that all of our employees have a healthy and a happy and a family-friendly place to work,” she said, citing a recent report that ranked the National Park Service in the bottom third of all federal jobs for satisfaction.
“I'd like to get to know all of you and forge relationships — very important relationships — so that you feel comfortable coming to me when there's an issue, and I feel comfortable coming to you.”
Creachbaum most recently served as superintendent of the 34,366-acre Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
She has worked at several other well-known sites, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Creachbaum is Olympic National Park's 15th superintendent and its third women leader.
In another topic discussed at Monday's Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting at the Red Lion Hotel, removal of Glines Canyon Dam will be “slowed down just a little bit,” Creachbaum said, to allow sediment to work its way down the Elwha River.
Park officials announced last month that the November-December hold on dam removal would be extended through January to allow crews to make modifications to an industrial water treatment plant that was clogged with material in December.
Creachbaum said the $325 million dam removal and habitat restoration project is still well ahead of schedule.
Asked to comment on the response to a dock remnant that washed ashore on one of the park's Pacific beaches last month, Creachbaum said:
“Everybody came to the table, and everybody was willing to work and willing to help.
“So I think it's going to be a team effort.”
The dock was believed to have been dislodged in the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in March 2011.
In response to a question about fees, Creachbaum said the park likely will not raise or lower fees in the foreseeable future.
Creachbaum, who began with the Park Service in 1983 clearing brush and building trails in Arizona's Saguaro National Park, displayed a slide showing that visitation at Olympic National Park was up 4.13 percent last year to
2.99 million visits.
“It seems like the predictions of visitors at national parks looks like it's going to remain relatively flat over the next two years,” she said.
“Flat or a slight increase is what the report said.”
Out-of-town park visitors pump about $94 million into the local economy every year, Creachbaum said.
“Most of those dollars are spent by those folks who spend the night,” she said. “That's not entirely rocket science.”
Creachbaum said the Park Service was charged by Congress with the 1916 Organic Act to “conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
“Having visitors to the park is pretty important for me to fulfil this mission,” she said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.