Q&A with Superintendent CashPosted by | 02.25.2015
GSMA: Thank you, Superintendent Cash, for taking time today to talk with us and our park's many supporters. First, welcome to the Smokies. We are wondering since you’re originally from the other side of the state, what are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed between west TN and east TN/western NC?
Cash: Yes, I grew up in western Tennessee and now have the incredible opportunity to work in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. My experiences in living not only in Tennessee, but across the U.S., have positioned me to see more shared challenges than differences. I think a shared concern for all of us who care for the Smokies is the answer to this question: “Does the next generation see themselves as future stewards of our treasured park and its natural resources?" I question whether that is a role they see for themselves and I ask myself, “How do we all compete for our youth's attention span when it comes to appreciating their national parks versus Play Stations, XBOXs, and smart phones?” To me, the formidable challenge we all face is the difference in values between generations, not the differences between the eastern and western part of the state. I’d like to see us come together to help our rural and urban youth understand that they have a role in the park’s future; and that role is to protect these resources and outdoor experiences for their children as we have strived to do for ours!
GSMA: More recently, you’ve just arrived from Boston, home to the Trails to Freedom. Both the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail navigate visitors through an urban landscape, while here in the Smokies, our trails offer visitors a very different experience. How will your urban trail management skills translate to the Smokies?
Cash: In Boston, my team and I rebranded both trails as being, "Boston Trails To Freedom." We were driven by our vision for what we wanted the visitor experience to be. We did not want millions of visitors to feel that there were two different histories--one for the American Revolution and the other for abolishing slavery. Instead, we wanted to highlight Boston's "total" contribution to this country. We will take the same approach here in the Great Smokies. We will look at the current visitors’ experience and ensure that it connects the resources and with the history of the communities that lived in these mountains in a way that speaks to how these sensitive and resilient ecosystems serve as crucial habitat for many indigenous plants and animals today. It is equally important to highlight Native Americans and European settlers relationship to these resources.
GSMA: You also have experience as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. Our readers want to know two things: Have you read Kim DeLozier’s “Bear in the Back Seat” and do have any similarly hilarious wildlife encounters to share?
Cash: I have to say that I have not read "Bear in the Back Seat," but I can only imagine the entertaining plot of that story based on the title of the book. I do have countless, hilarious stories of when I was a young wildlife biologist surveying for northern spotted owls in old-growth forest in the pacific northwest using recordings of actual spotted owl hoots to draw in owls. During my training, what my supervisor failed to tell me, was that sometimes while ‘calling for owls,’ you may unknowingly come across nesting hawks. And I can tell you, they do not like that! There were many times I found myself sprinting through the woods, trying to find shelter from a very upset female hawk that was protecting her nest! As I scrambled to safety, you could hear me repeating the popular Southwest Airlines commercial slogan, "Wanna Get Away?" My answer was always, “Yes!”
GSMA: By now you’re aware of all there is to do in the Smokies. Hiking. Biking. Camping. Fishing. Driving. Exploring. Just to make a few. What are you most looking forward to doing on your next day off?
Cash: I have enjoyed getting to know this park since my arrival on February 8. I am aware of most of the recreational opportunities that exist in the Smokies and am looking forward to experiencing them. My first task is to have my family join me here in the mountains. They are on their way in the next few weeks. When I get some time off, I’d really like to see the park the way that our visitors do. So I intend to experience this incredibly special place in both North Carolina and Tennessee. I think as Superintendent, it’s important to share the experiences that our visitors have.
Meet and Greet the Superintendent
- Thursday, Feb. 26, Calhoun's Banquet Room in Gatlinburg, TN
- Tuesday, March 3, Barn Event Center in Townsend, TN
- Thursday, March 5, Oconaluftee Administration Building adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC.