Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

William Tweed: New person for a big job at Sequoia, Kings Canyon

February 16, 2010, 8:04 am

This past week, with minimal fanfare, the national parks of the southern Sierra received a new boss, the 17th civilian to serve as superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

The new parks superintendent, Karen Taylor-Goodrich, comes to Sequoia and Kings Canyon after a multidecade career with the National Park Service, and she has received enough local publicity that I won't make this column about her. Instead, let's talk about the job she is about to undertake.

The position Taylor-Goodrich fills has a long history and huge responsibilities. In its current form, it dates back to 1914. On July 1 of that year, the secretary of the interior appointed local rancher and summer park ranger Walter Fry as the first full-time superintendent of Sequoia National Park.

Prior to 1914, the park was staffed only during the summer months, and temporary park managers, who were styled as "acting superintendents," oversaw management of the reservation. During that period, which began in 1891, responsibility for the park fell mostly to the U.S. Army, and during the 23 years the Army ran the park, 20 men at one time or another held the formal title of acting superintendent.

With the arrival of civilian management in 1914, the job took on new responsibilities, a trend that has continued over the years. Since 1943, the superintendent of Sequoia National Park has also held that same title for neighboring Kings Canyon National Park.

Looked at from a local point of view, the superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon holds a special place in Tulare County. All of Sequoia National Park and about one-third of Kings Canyon fall within our county, with the result that the parks superintendent has immediate responsibility for approximately 20 percent of Tulare County's total acreage.

This alone makes the job sound important, but there is more, much more. Within the national parks, the superintendent has an authority that is unmatched by any local official outside the two reservations, the results from a mostly forgotten but still significant action taken by the California Legislature more than 90 years ago.