One of Minnesota’s top park rangers has a new job managing regional National Park Service programs.
Chris Stein, superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway for the past eight years, will manage heritage areas and partnership programs in the Park Service’s 13-state Midwest region. He began the new job this week, but will work temporarily in Hudson, Wis., before moving to the regional offices in Omaha next year.
Stein recently was on loan to one of the newest national park units, Pullman National Monument in Chicago, where the fabled Palace rail cars were built for more than half a century.
In his new role as chief of Heritage Areas and Partnerships, Stein will provide technical support and oversight to the Midwest region’s eight heritage areas, which he said are “nationally significant stories in their landscapes, historical sites, natural areas and the history that occurred there.”
The closest heritage areas to Minnesota are Silos and Smokestacks in northeast Iowa and Northern Plains in North Dakota. To establish a heritage area, Stein said, “civic engagement and public buy-in is an essential ingredient.”
Stein is known for his skill in building public and private partnerships to assist the Park Service in its work. Among his recent initiatives: The Monarch Corridor, designed to reverse a steep decline of monarch butterflies in the 800-square-mile St. Croix riverway. The initiative includes potentially hundreds of partnerships with major companies such as Andersen Windows and with cities, counties, service clubs and individuals.
During his tenure with the riverway, Stein was known as a champion of water quality, a protector of the river corridor from distractions such as cell towers and machine noise, and for helping people understand that the riverway is in fact a national park. The riverway park covers the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers and their watersheds north of Stillwater.
The Midwest region will begin recruiting for a new permanent superintendent for the riverway as soon as possible, said NPS spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet. Julie Galonska, interim superintendent since Stein went to Pullman in January, will continue in that role until a new superintendent is hired, Picavet said.
The Midwest Regional Office manages 61 park areas in 13 states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has been headquartered in Omaha since the mid-1930s.