6 questions with National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O'Dell

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Last week, National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O'Dell traveled from Washington D.C. to Grand Teton National Park to help with 45 4th graders who toured through the Every Kid in a Park Initiative. While she was here, we were able to sit down with her to discuss the National Park Service 100th anniversary, Her favorite things to do in Grand Teton National Park and more. *1. What was the first National Park that you visited?* *Grand Canyon National Park with my parents on vacation when we were little and all stuffed into the station wagon. All the seats were down and all my five brothers and sisters and I were packed in the back of the car and we had a great family trip.* *2. What does the 100th Anniversary of the Park Service mean to you?* *100 years is a milestone for any organization and for an institution like the National Park Service that Congress in their wisdom back in the Woodrow Wilson Era, 1916, came to the conclusion that special places needed to be saved for the country and that was a dramatically new idea. The U.S. was the place where that idea looked at land and looked at preserving land differently and it was a concept that these special places belonged to all Americans -- they are not part of a monarchy's holdings and they are not part of the rich people's world, that they belong to all Americans. So to be able to serve this organization and serve the American people at the 100th anniversary where we are taking up a good introspective look at ourself to make sure that we are really representing America within the National Park Service is, I think the next version of that gift to the country. So we have got a lot of focus on finding the stories of diverse Americans that have not been told or preserved yet in the National Park Service.* *So if you look at the newest National Parks that have been created in the last couple of years, you will see African American stories, you will see Asian American stories, you see women's stories, you will see LGBT stories. You will see places on the ground where significant events happen, where people make significant changes to our country that are preserved for future generations. The stories of all Americans can be told through the Park Service.* *Our goal for the centennial is to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. And that means reaching out to diverse populations who aren't already National Park Service users and they don't know that they own the National Parks. We are working very hard to invite people in to make them feel welcome and to give them great experiences and let them know that their stories are part of the national fabric of our country. * *3. What brings you to this event in Grand Teton National Park?* *OK, so it is Grand Teton National Park. That is one plus for coming here.* *But really it's the fact that this concessioner [Grand Teton Lodge Company] in this park has chosen to do this activity out of the goodness of their hearts. They aren't required to do this in their business relationship with us, they just learned about the program from working with the park staff here and realized that they could make a contribution. So this is the second year in a row that they have reached out to fourth graders and brought them to the park for many of them their very first National Park experience. I 'm here particularly to thank this organization Grand Teton Lodge Company and to acknowledge how important their partnership is to providing great visitor experience in National Parks. * *[image: Inline image 2]* *Peggy O'Dell swears in a junior ranger in Grand Teton National Park last week. **h/t Cody Downard / Grand Teton Lodge Company / Pitchengine Communities* *4. How long have you worked with the Park Service?* *I am coming up on 37 years.* *5. Which parks have you worked at?* *I began in St. Louis at the Gateway Arch as a seasonal worker when I was in college. Then I got my first permanent job was the US Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake in Southern Illinois. I only stayed with them for six months before a job came open back in St. Louis for the National Parks Service so I transferred over and I have been at the National Park Service ever since then.* *I met my husband in the Park Service and we married and he and I have shared a career. We have been at Olympic National Park, Ozarks National Scenic Riverways, Jewel Cave and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, we went to Harpers Ferry Design Center after that. My husband then went on to Wolf Trap, then went back to St. Louis. 25 years after I started, I went back to my first park as the superintendent. Then I came to Washington where I was superintendent of the National Mall and then the National Capitol regional director and now the deputy director. * *6. What is your favorite thing to do in Grand Teton National Park?* *I think it has to be wildlife watching. I have spotting scope in my lodge room and was watching elk out in the meadow last night. * *Feature Photo: Peggy O'Dell speaks to fourth graders on a boat. h/t Cody Downard / Grand Teton Lodge Company / Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news