The new superintendent of New River Gorge National River says her upcoming move to Fayette County feels a bit like coming home. Patricia “Trish” Kicklighter is a native of the Missouri Ozarks, an area that bears a certain similarity to West Virginia in terms of landscape and culture.
The Park Service announced earlier this month that Kicklighter will succeed former Superintendent Don Striker, who left New River for Denali National Park earlier this year. She is currently the superintendent of Assateague Island National Seashore, off the coast of Maryland, and her experience includes former posts at Shenandoah National Park, Harpers Ferry Design Center, Point Reyes National Seashore, Cabrillo National Monument, and Ozark Scenic Riverways.
Kicklighter and her husband Wayne plan to move to Fayette County in late May. They’ll start their life here in the heart of the New River Gorge, living in Thurmond while they look for a longer-term home.
In a recent interview, Kicklighter stressed the importance of building partnerships with local communities, an emphasis shared by Striker before her. “National Parks are about a sense of place that’s shared with everybody in the community,” she says.
Why did you choose to apply for this job? What drew you to the position?
It’s a fabulous resource. I’m from the Missouri Ozarks and spent my summers on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, so I’m really drawn to being out in the country and to rivers. I just thought the New River reminded me of home.
I’m also very interested in expanding partnerships and working closely with partners to build support for the parks and help each other achieve our goals. I was very intrigued by the various partnerships at the New River.
You were a river ranger at Ozark National Scenic River at the start of your career. Can you talk about that?
I was an interpreter, which is the Parks Service’s term for a naturalist. In the summer months, my job was to be on the river, canoeing as much as three times a week and making visitor contacts and helping people canoe the river safely and doing any rescues that needed to be done.