Dale Ditmanson to retire as Smokies park superintendent

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

Dale Ditmanson, who has served as superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2004, said he will retire from the National Park Service at the end of the year, according to an announcement from the National Park Service.

During his time running the park, he has overseen the construction of facilities including the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, along with renovations to the Sugarlands Visitors Center, Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, Park Headquarters and Clingmans Dome Contact Station, as well as preservation of the Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin at Elkmont.

In addition to those efforts, he led one of the largest infrastructure rehabilitation efforts in park history when the park got more than $80 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other revenue sources. With that money, personnel restored more than 32 miles of trails and 61 historic cemeteries, reroofed and repainted 64 buildings, brought more campground and picnic area restrooms into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and repaved several roads.

Ditmanson also oversaw the events celebrating the park's 75th anniversary in 2009.

“Dale Ditmanson exemplifies the best of the National Park Service career employees — dedicated to the mission, driven to excellence and willing to fight to protect our National Parks,” NPS Director Jon Jarvis said. “I appreciate all he has done for the American people through his NPS career and wish him well in retirement.”

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also credited Ditmanson for his efforts in working with local communities surrounding the park.

“He talks to local leaders about issues that involve areas surrounding the park, and if something’s going on in the park that impacts those communities, he will involve the local leaders in those issues," Waters said. "I think that’s been good for the relationship among all the local communities that surround the park and the park itself.”

As an example, Waters pointed to the recent landslide that closed Newfound Gap for several months. Ditmanson saw to it that local leaders could see the site of the landslide and gave them a breakdown of what the park planned and how long the repairs would take, Waters said.

“I think he has improved (communications) and certainly will be missed as he retires and moves on.”

Ditmanson’s wife, Suzanne, teaches at Pi Beta Phi Elementary School. The two plan to continue living in the area.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com