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Environment


Park chief says farewell to the Cuyahoga Valley
Stan Austin says the National Park Service is investing in urban parks like the Cuyahoga Valley,  and as a regional director he'll keep Ohio's national park in mind
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Stan Austin is leaving the CVNP to take over management of the National Park Service's Southeast Region and its 60 parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains, several Civil War battlefields, and the Virgin Islands National Park, but he will always cherish the Cuyahoga Valley.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
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In The Region:

I was the first reporter to interview Cuyahoga Valley National Park superintendent Stan Austin when he arrived in northeast Ohio three years ago.  And I am the last reporter to have interviewed him as his term ends today.  During his tenure, Austin oversaw the adoption of a new trail plan that will add 37 miles of hiking and 10 miles of biking trails, and camping in the park – plus he dealt with the federal sequester.

Stan Austin now heads to Atlanta to take over the National Park’s Southeast region and its 60 parks, but he stopped for one last look at the Cuyahoga Valley …

LISTEN: Jeff St.Clair talks with CVNP's Stan Austin

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Stan Austin came to northeast Ohio from Glen Canyon National Park three years ago.  Now he’s taking over management of the National Park Service’s Southeast Region and its 60 parks.

During his three years in Ohio,  Austin oversaw the adoption of a new trails management plan, which was finalized after many years of review. The plan calls for 37 miles of new hiking trails, mostly short connectors, 10 miles of mountain bike trails, and several new tent camping sites.

Austin says people expect to be able to camp in national parks and Cuyahoga Valley urrently only has one location at Stanford House, which is by reservation only. The plan also calls for increased access to the Cuyahoga River, which is becoming possible as water quality improves. But it's still a ways off due to continued problems with combined sewer overflows.

During his tenure, Austin was forced to cut $600,000 from his annual budget, which cut his seasonal staff by 33 employees due to the federal budget sequester.

Other cut-backs included the closing of some outdoor restrooms, reduced trash pick-up, and cuts to several programs. Austin says the excellent non-profits that support the park, the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Countryside Conservancy, and the CV Scenic Railroad, along with the efforts of thousands of volunteers have mitigated the effects of budget cuts.

Austin says urban parks like Cuyahoga are becoming more important to the National Park Service and the fact that he was selected as a regional director illustrates that point.  Austin says the service will continue to invest in parks that are close to where people live in order to bring more people into outdoor and historical settings.  And though it’s not part of his new Southeast region, Austin says he'll continue to be an advocate for the Cuyahoga Valley.

Austin says, Cheryl Schreier, current head of the Mt. Rushmore National Park, will serve as the interim director at Cuyahoga Valley until a new superintendent is selected.

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