Community leaders including International Falls Mayor Bob Anderson and Representative Rob Ecklund, park staff, and local residents gathered at the Ranier Community Hall to meet Bob over hot chocolate and coffee. More than 50 people were in attendance.
A brief program began with More Than Just Parks' "Voyageurs 8k" short film, followed by welcoming remarks from Rep. Ecklund and VNPA Executive Director Christina Hausman. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, unable to attend the reception, sent her regards:
Bob, although I can't be there to welcome you in person, I want to take this opportunity to say congratulations on your new position as Superintendent of this beautiful park that is a treasure.
I also want to take this time to congratulate Voyageurs National Park Association for being recognized by the National Park Service and receiving a Partnership Champion Award. The work you do with youth, introducing them to the beauty of our national parks, is so important. You are helping preserve our national park system and you all deserve many thanks for that.
I believe our national park system is such an integral park of who we are in the United States of America and I will continue my efforts to protect our national parks. Again, I wish to welcome Bob to northern Minnesota. I am honored to represent you all in the U.S. Senate.
Following, Bob DeGross spoke of his desire to continue working closely with the local gateway communities, finding ways to encourage new visitations to the area while ensuring the on-going protection of the cultural and natural resources of the park. Most recently the Chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs at Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, Bob has more than 25 years of experience in the National Park Service, serving in a range of management and filed positions. A native of Wisconsin, Bob stated, "This is like coming home."
Chief of Interpretation Tawnya Schoewe then presented Voyageurs National Park Association with three awards recognizing their strong commitment to partnerships and improving the park, the Director's Partnership Award and two Midwest Region Champion Awards. National Park Service Regional Director Cameron Sholly noted in a letter accompanying the awards -
You exemplify the best in partnerships and your dedicated work has had a positive impact on the park and its surrounding communities.
VNPA board chair Jeff Brown and board members Lindsey Remakel, Doug Franchot, Burgess Eberhardt, and Eric Johnson accepted the awards with VNPA's Executive Director.
Mike Ward, the previous superintendent, went to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial for a temporary position over a year ago, but was then hired full time. Since then, Maintenance Supervisor Bill Carlson has been acting superintendent at Voyageurs. We would like to take a moment to thank him for all of the work he and other park staff have done during this period of transition.
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend! View more photos here.