After spending nearly the past 16 years at Acadia, the park’s chief ranger is leaving to take a National Park Service superintendent position overseeing sites in New Mexico and Colorado.
Stuart West served as Acadia’s chief ranger for 11 years, after David Buccello retired from the post in 2008. West’s last day on the job was Wednesday. He expects to begin his new duties as superintendent of three National Park Service sites sometime next month, West said Wednesday.
Prior to coming to Acadia in 2003, West worked at Prince William Forest Park in his native Virginia, at Buffalo National River in Arkansas and at Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis.
“Maine is bay far, hands down, my favorite,” West said of his park service assignments. But becoming a park superintendent, he added, has been “a long-term goal.”
In his new assignment, West will become the top administrator for three sites known as the High Plains Group, which consists of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and Capulin Volcano National Monument. All the sites are within a couple of hours’ drive of each other, he said, with the volcano site in northeastern New Mexico and the other two in Colorado.
Mike Madell, deputy superintendent of Acadia, said that West’s knowledge of both Acadia and of Mount Desert Island as a whole will be hard to replace. West has approached his job with a “community policing” sensibility, he said, which has fostered more familiarity and collaboration between the park and neighboring towns and residents.
“You can’t buy that off the shelf someplace,” Madell said.
Under West’s tenure, the park has established closer working relationships with surrounding towns by establishing mutual aid emergency response agreements, he said. The park and neighboring towns also have worked together on community connector trails, in which local trails in surrounding towns have helped provide greater pedestrian access between some of the island’s villages and the park.
Madell said other Acadia officials will miss West’s easygoing, approachable demeanor, for both personal and professional reasons. West has an ability to keep calm and help others feel reassured, too, which can be helpful when rangers respond to tense situations such as an accident or an unruly park visitor.
“He’s got a real even keel about him,” Madell said. “Those skills will serve him well as a superintendent.”
Madell noted that West already has valuable, non-law enforcement experience with the park service. During federal government shutdowns in 2013 and last winter, much of Acadia’s staff has been furloughed, leaving only West and a handful of rangers to keep an eye on things.
During the five-week shutdown last winter, West helped to hammer out an agreement that allowed volunteers to plow snow and groom trails for people who continued to use the park despite the closure, Madell said.
“That’s not on his normal list of responsibilities,” the deputy superintendent said. “He basically had to deal with everything that came up.”
West said working his last day was “bittersweet.” He said his staff at the High Plains Group sites will be much smaller than the staff of 250 or so year-round and seasonal employees at Acadia, and he will miss being exposed to the broad scope of expertise his co-workers at Acadia possess.
“Acadia is a magnet for talent,” West said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something. I’m going to miss it an awful lot here.”