SN INTERVIEW: New KGRNHP Superintendent Susan Boudreau

Susan Boudreau, the sixth superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and the first woman at its head, arrived in Skagway last month. The move for her was a short one, as she came from Glacier Bay National Park. She was interviewed this week by editor Jeff Brady:

Skagway News: Welcome to Skagway. Tell us how you got to this point in your career, and why you applied for this park?
Susan Boudreau: My background is as a terrestrial ecologist. I was with the Forest Service for 12 years and got my first experience with cultural and natural resources and being a tribal liasion with tribes out of Idaho and Utah, serving from the south central Utah district. Then a job came up with Denali National Park to get back up into Alaska and be a division leader. I’d been here (Alaska) in Chugach National Forest before out of Cordova and Anchorage. I changed my career status more toward cultural resources. I was at Denali four years, then took the job at Glacier Bay as chief of natural and cultural resouces. I spent the last four years overseeing that. I learned a lot about the cultural side of things, working with Hoonah Tlingits on several projects. Back in January, I was ready to look at a more senior position. This job came open and I did research on the park and found out how it was. I really liked the historic side of trails and the number of partnerships, city, state and international, and non-profit. And I’m excited to be here.

SN: So far, how does the experience at Glacier Bay compare to what you’ve seen here after a month on the job?
SB: It’s a lot different, mainly because of the historic perspective here. The buildings. I’m just amazed at how beautiful they are and how important it is to maintain the historic impression of the restorations. The team here is so proud of their work. That is so imporant. Glacier Bay has no historic buildings. The other side is working with the city and being a active member on the boards, and working cooperatively with the city. It’s different than what we have in Glacier Bay (near Gustavus), it’s more direct here. Also our role with international Parks Canada. I met with Ann Morin, Yukon area superintendent, and will be up to Whitehorse next week to meet with Bob Lewis, superintendent of Chilkoot (Canada), and try to talk him into hiking the trail with me next year. I’ve been putting faces to names. I met with Gary Danielson of the railroad, our mayor Tom Cochran, Alan Sorum, Buckwheat, and I’m getting around to meet lessees and all the business people in town.

SN: What are the major goals for the park for the rest of the decade?
SB: The Rapuzzi Collection will be the big one for the next 25 years. It’s huge, very big, very exciting. A cooperative effort with a direct link with the city. We’re just waiting (before starting work) for finalzing the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Rasmuson Foundation, and we should be seeing that real soon. Inventory is the biggie and hazmat, there’s a lot of dust. A lot of people are interested in helping and volunteering. Long-term Dyea management is also a big one. Keeping our partnerships strong with international folks, that’s ongoing. NPS Centennial Challenge in 2012, different centennial projects we can be involved in. White Pass Trail is possible within 10 years, we are doing archaeology first, but it depends on the funding as to when it will start.

SN: Do you have any new or different ideas to offer for the park?
SB: I’m trying to understand what is going on in the park currently. The park and park staff have a good strong working relationship and a strong program. There’s nothing I will bring in new but I will help with the processing of the Rapuzzi Collection. I see my job as working with the partnerships and bringing in money. We have a good staff with a lot on their plate in a time of reduced budgets. One thing that’s kind of new is thinking about carrying capacity on a lot of our trail systems. I’ll be looking at visitor satisfactory assessments that have been done in Canada – both from the visitor aspect and ecological.

SN: When you aren’t in uniform, where will people in Skagway be seeing you? What do you like to do outside the office?
SB: They are seeing me right now walking my dog, which is a collie. I’m a big walker and that’s how I meet people. I’m over in Customs housing (across river) right now, so it’s a two-mile walk to work. Just say hi to me. I have a collie. People are waving so I think they know me. They know the dog.