Eighty-five years after its founding, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will get its first female chief ranger this April.
National Park Service veteran Lisa Hendy will take over the post, the agency announced last week. Hendy, a native of Tennessee, has been a ranger since 1995 at a string of parks including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Arches, and previously served as the chief ranger of Big Bend National Park.
“I am looking forward to returning to my home state in the park that provided my first real outdoor adventures,” Hendy 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.”
As chief ranger, Hendy will be responsible for overseeing the park’s law enforcement and emergency division, including firefighting, medical, and search and rescue operations. She’ll manage about 240 permanent employees and 80 seasonal workers.
Besides being a ranger, Hendy is a certified paramedic, swiftwater rescuer, firefighter, and aviation manager. In 2011 she won the Harry Yount National Park Ranger award, the NPS’s highest honor for its rangers.
“On any day ranger Hendy could be anywhere: rappelling over the rim of the Grand Canyon to stabilize a patient, working with the Grand Canyon Special Response Team to do a building sweep, responding with the structural fire engine to a burning RV, providing advanced life support as a paramedic on a middle of the night cardiac call, be short-hauled in to a victim on the river, or patrolling the backcountry—checking permits, stirring toilets, and assessing archeological sites,” the park service wrote in its citation for her award. “Or just answering visitor questions.”
Great Smoky Mountains is the busiest national park in the US; in 2017, it saw 11.34 million visitors. Its 522,419 acres are home to 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail and the densest black bear population in the eastern United States.