Sean McGuinness, Superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River (UDSSR), has announced his retirement effective January 14. Upper Delaware Council (UDC), while lauding McGuinness for his four years of service here, is mulling concern if this will trigger any changes for the Park Service in the area.
Laurie Ramie, UDC Executive Director, commented at the November 7th UDC meeting that McGuinness' absence will be a loss for the area. She cited the "excellent working relationship" the Council has enjoyed with him. McGuinness, age 59, has been a NPS employee for 36 years. He said he tried hard to make a difference in his stay on the Upper Delaware, overseeing the 74.3 mile length of the river between Hancock, NY and Millrift, PA.
Although the UDSSR has seen several superintendents come and go since the retirement of their first superintendent, John Hutzky in 1995, what would normally be expected to happen might not occur, McGuinness cautioned at the meeting.
"I have no idea who will replace me," McGuinness said. He said in past times of a poor national economy, the Park Service was able to manage. "We stuck it out," he said, "That may not happen this time. Who knows what they're thinking."
He said it was a hard decision to retire at this time.
Ramie told the Council that McGuinness' departure "makes us nervous," not knowing what the Department of the Interior may choose to do. She said that there has been talk in the past when superintendents were leaving, of merging the UDSRR with the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) on the Middle Delaware.
Each time, the UDC has opposed the idea. She said that given the lean federal budgetary times, there is concern this proposal may surface again as a means to cut costs.
Merging the two Park Service units would be highly impractical, she stressed, given they are so different.
The Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River is unique in the Park Service system, with around 95 percent of the corridor remaining in private land ownership. Park Service jurisdiction is limited to the water and the small land areas under their supervision. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, on the other hand, is a typical National Park, having taken the corridor on either side of the river for Park use.
"We'd be lost in that scenario," Ramie added of the UDC.
The UDSSR was designated a unit of the Wild & Scenic River System in 1978 and started operations in 1980. The UDC was organized by Congressional mandate in 1988 as a non-profit partnership of local, state and federal governments and agencies to implement the River Management Plan.
As stated by the UDC, that plan is committed to local land use controls and voluntary actions by landowners to protect the resources on their own private property, as opposed to federal ownership of the river corridor land. The Council membership operates with a long-term cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Their annual operational budget is funded through the Park Service.
Page 2 of 2 - [Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that McGuinness would retire effective this month.]