National Park Service Director Visits RMNP
ESTES PARK, Colo. – National Park Service Director Chuck Sams visited Rocky Mountain National Park this week to see how the park is working to tell a more inclusive history and to announce $20 million in Fiscal Year 2022 investments from the Great American Outdoors Act and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will increase fire resiliency and upgrade and modernize key park infrastructure needed to support growing visitation. Sams also met with employee groups to hear directly from them on how he can best support them in Washington.
During the visit, Director Sams announced the NPS has awarded a $19.9 million contract funded by the Great American Outdoors Act’s Legacy Restoration Fund to rehabilitate water, wastewater, and electrical distribution systems and improve accessibility, address fire risk, and modernize the Moraine Park Campground. This project will also relocate electric powerlines in the campground underground to reduce system damage caused by snow, wind, falling tree branches, electrical hazards or wildfire and will add electrical hook-ups to approximately 25% of the campsites. Additionally, there will be improvements to the ranger station, entrance kiosk, accessibility and drainage in the campground.
He also celebrated a Fiscal Year 2022 investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Rocky Mountain National Park. Fuel treatment projects, including at Deer Mountain, will build on the park’s prior fuel reduction work and further reduce the risk of catastrophic fires fueled by climate change. This is part of the $103 million investment announced by the Department for wildfire risk reduction efforts throughout the country.
The Director was briefed on the park’s fire management program and saw the impacts of the devastating October 2020 East Troublesome Fire, which fueled by record-high temperatures and drought became the largest fire in Rocky Mountain National Park’s 107-year history and burned over 21,000 acres within the park. Sams heard firsthand how past fuels mitigation projects aided firefighting efforts during the East Troublesome Fire in 2020. Fire fighters were able to use these past projects as anchors to prevent the fire from moving into the surrounding community of Estes Park.
Sams visited the west side of the park to see how Rocky Mountain National Park is working with affiliated Tribes to tell a more complete and accurate history and planning for new exhibits for the Kawuneeche Visitor Center. These exhibits, which will directly incorporate Tribal voices, showcase important Indigenous connections, encouraging visitors to the park to see the park not only as a beautiful natural setting but also as a place where Native peoples hold strong historical and contemporary connections.
Throughout his two days in the park Sams met with many park staff and volunteers and visited with the interns from the park’s inaugural Diversity Internship Cohort Program. The program is hosting over 20 interns to increase the diversity of NPS staff through development and mentoring of interns within a variety of park workgroups and partners.