Closing The Gap

A woman will be chief ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in its 85-year history

Tennessee native Lisa Hendy will become the Great Smokey Mountains National Park's first female chief ranger in April.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most visited national park in the nation will now have a female lead ranger for the first time in its 85-year history.

Tennessee native Lisa Hendy will become the Great Smokey Mountains National Park's chief ranger in April and help look after the 522,419 acres of protected land that runs between Tennessee and North Carolina, reports CNN.

She will make the move after finishing her stint as the chief ranger at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Before that she served at a host of other national parks such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Hendy says she see the move as a homecoming. She grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., and had her first backcountry experiences in the Smokies.

"I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures," she said in a press release. "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."

In her new role, Hendy will oversee all the park rangers responsible for law enforcement, wildland fire operations, emergency medical services, search and rescue operations, backcountry operations, and emergency communications center, according to the National Park Service. That amounts to managing about 240 permanent and 80-plus seasonal employees.

"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 press statement. "She's built strong programs by investing in local partnerships with neighboring agencies to help make areas safer for visitors and residents. She is going to be a great addition to the park's management team."

Hendy received the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award in 2011, one of the highest accolades a park ranger can receive and before that, in 2007, she received an Intermountain Region Exemplary Service Award for life saving efforts within Grand Canyon National Park.

A graduate of Auburn University and Utah State University, Hendy not is a only a park ranger but a certified paramedic, firefighter, aviation manager and swiftwater rescuer.

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