Julie Galonska, a 23-year veteran of the National Park Service, is the new superintendent of St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
She takes command of a park unit that covers 250 miles of the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and has far-reaching influence in preserving the wild and scenic character of those rivers.
She also will guide the riverway into a challenging era beyond its golden anniversary next year.
“How do we all work together to make this place is as interesting and special 50 years from now as it is today?” she said Thursday.
Galonska, 48, was appointed the park’s acting superintendent in February 2016 when Chris Stein was assigned temporarily to the new Pullman National Monument in Chicago. He now manages heritage areas and partnership programs in the National Park Service’s 13-state Midwest region.
While serving as acting superintendent, Galonska also continued as the park’s chief of interpretation, education, and cultural resource management.
Numerous challenges face the park, she said, over its next 50 years. Preserving water quality and scenic views remain priorities.
An invasion of carp could seriously threaten the St. Croix’s multimillion-dollar fishing and boating industry.
The National Park Service also must work hard to attract a generation of younger people raised on electronics, she said.
“We really have to find ways to make sure we’re continuing to connect with kids and families and people who aren’t coming to the riverway today so this place remains relevant and useful to a really wide group,” she said.
The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway generated more than $30 million in visitor spending and nearly 500 jobs in 2016, according to Park Service estimates.
The St. Croix and its main tributary, the Namekagon, were among eight rivers first designated as wild and scenic rivers under a new federal law in 1968.
The St. Croix was also the first U.S. river designated as a national park.
Because park boundaries extend about a quarter-mile on both sides of the rivers, the Park Service depends on partnerships with businesses, state agencies and property owners to protect its natural beauty.
In many cases, the Park Service buys easements on private property in exchange for an agreement not to develop it.
“Most of the private landowners on the riverway, whether they have scenic easement protection or not, are really interested in protecting that scenic view,” Galonska said. “They are our front line of defense when it comes to doing what’s best for the river.”
Galonska has worked for the Park Service across the country and received a master’s degree in public history from Oklahoma State University and has a bachelor’s degree in history and written communications from Eastern Michigan University.
Cam Sholly, Midwest regional director for the Park Service, said Galonska is the right person to continue the pursuit of partnerships.
“She has the right approach and blend of experience to continue moving the park forward in a positive direction,” Sholly said.