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It's a new era for Glacier National Park

by FRANK MIELE
| September 24, 2013 10:37 AM

It’s a time of significant changes in Glacier National Park, and our hope is that new people and programs on the park scene will be productive in years to come.

The park has a new superintendent, Jeff Mow, a 25-year National Park Service veteran who comes to Glacier after nine years at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.

Mow expresses enthusiasm and confidence about working with a new park concessions contractor, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, and a newly formed park philanthropic partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

The relationships between the park and these organizations will be truly important, requiring cooperation and coordination for the benefit of Glacier’s resources and visitors.

Xanterra is the country’s largest concession contractor for national parks, taking over responsibilities in managing the majority of Glacier’s lodging, retail, food and beverage and transportation services from long-time contractor Glacier Park Inc.

Mow says he expects a smooth transition from GPI to Xanterra, for employees and visitors alike. There are reasons Xanterra was selected for the 15-year contract, and hopefully the company will carry on the things GPI did best while providing a new layer of services that will be noticeably appreciated by visitors.

The Glacier National Park Conservancy, likewise, will be a major partner to the park, crucial in providing funding support to Glacier projects and programs where the National Park Service comes up short due to budget woes.

The conservancy was established at the beginning of this year as the result of a merger between the Glacier Association, which raises money for the park through sales at book stores, and the Glacier National Park Fund, which had an emphasis on philanthropy. The merger led to the recent hiring of Mark Preiss as chief executive officer, who will be pursuing an ambitious goal of roughly doubling fundraising into the neighborhood of about $5 million a year within the next couple years.

Park staff and the conservancy will be working closely to identify important pursuits, and Mow says the organization will play a big role in Glacier’s future.

As for Mow, he says he has no plans on leaving Glacier anytime soon. With a son in high school, he says retirement lies in the distant future and his long tenure at his last post should be an indication that he will be around for a while. Leadership continuity would certainly be a good thing for Glacier, particularly with the new relationships that need to be established.

(Frank Miele is editor of the Daily Inter Lake.)