Former Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent dies after suffering from COVID-19
WASHINGTON, DC (WDBJ/NPS Release) - Former National Park Service Director Gary Everhardt died Sunday, following a battle with COVID-19, and four days after his wife Nancy died. He was 86-years-old.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Gary’s loved ones, friends and all whose lives he touched through his service and mentorship,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said. “Gary had a profound impact and lasting legacy on America’s National Parks. His dedication to the National Park Service mission and service to the American public will be remembered for years to come.”
Everhardt was born in 1934 in Lenoir, North Carolina, according to the park service (NPS). He graduated from North Carolina State University in 1957 with a degree in civil engineering, then became an engineer for NPS. He became superintendent of Grand Teton National Park in 1972.
He was appointed the 9th director of the National Park Service by President Gerald Ford in January 1975 and served through the end of the Ford Administration, according to NPS. As director, Everhardt led America’s Bicentennial planning and celebration, doubled the acreage of land protected as part of the National Park System adding over 30 million acres, primarily in Alaska, and oversaw advancements in interpretive programming and visitor services.
After serving as director, Everhardt returned to the field as the superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1977, serving 23 years until his retirement in 2000. At Blue Ridge Parkway, Everhardt championed projects “to make the Parkway safe and accessible for visitors, expanded ranger-led programming, constructed new trails, supported the addition of arts destinations like the Asheville Folk Art Center and Blue Ridge Music Center and invested in growing partnerships between the park and local communities,” according to NPS.
Everhardt and his wife are survived by their two children, Karen and Phil.
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