By David Rogers. April 25, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Speaking “from the heart” is evidently nothing new for J.D. Lee, introduced Tuesday evening as the new Blue Ridge Parkway superintendent to a room full of supporters, patrons and politicians with an interest in America’s most visited national park. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation hosted the reception at Chetola Mountain Resort in Blowing Rock.
ERRATA, May 7, 2018: We initially introduced Mr. Lee to our readers as “J.B. Lee”. That has since been corrected to “J.D. Lee” after the error was brought to our attention this morning. We apologize for the mistaken identity and any confusion it caused.
“All of the national parks are important,” Lee noted to Blowing Rock News in an interview after all the prepared remarks by Lee, as well as by representatives of the Blue Ridge Conservancy and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, “but what makes the Blue Ridge Parkway so special to me are all of the communities it connects, the great people who live in those communities, and the stories we get to tell. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the bloodline that connects all of these communities like Blowing Rock. Without the Parkway, it would be a little bit more difficult to have those connections. They aren’t just economic connections, but social and cultural as well. I look forward to working with all of the Parkway’s partners and volunteers for many, many years.”
The Parkway is the bloodline that connects all of the communities along its path.
Asked whether the funding problems that have besieged the National Park Service in recent years has gone away, Lee countered, “I don’t know that I would describe it as a crisis. There are always going to be challenges. Basically, I look at those as opportunities. With all of the relationships and partnerships that we have developed with organizations like the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Friends of the Parkway, and Blue Ridge Conservancy, as well as all of the other individuals who have come together to show their support, I think we can overcome those challenges.”
Representing Blue Ridge Conservancy, Executive Director Charlie Brady explained to Blowing Rock News separately that the interests of his organization and the Parkway are very similar.
“Both organizations want to preserve and protect the Parkway lands,” Brady explained. “I believe that Superintendent Lee is the perfect individual to lead the Parkway. He brings a sincere passion for this job. I think you could sense that tonight, that he is absolutely excited and passionate about being here. He has demonstrated all kinds of leadership skills. I think all of that bodes well for the future of the Parkway.”
Lee’s path to the top of the Parkway’s proverbial food chain has apparently been methodical, covering several years, and almost “old school.”
“I went to college, majoring in natural resources with an option in outdoor recreation. I started out at one of the lowest levels in the National Park Service, a GS4,” he said, smilingly, when asked by Blowing Rock News about the process in becoming superintendent of the Parkway. “I worked my way up through law enforcement and a firefighting career. I have been in supervision and management since the 1990s. I have always tried to diversify my experiences so that I am prepared for the next job that I step into.”
Lee is a native of Indiana and his last management position was with the Big Cypress Natural Reserve in South Florida.
“I love the mountains,” said Lee, who will be headquartered at the Parkway office in Asheville.