ASSATEAGUE – National Park Service officials last week announced Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Trish Kicklighter was leaving the position after nearly four years to become superintendent of the New River Gorge National River in Missouri.

Kicklighter became the superintendent at Assateague Island National Seashore in 2009 and shepherded the federal park through changing times. During her tenure as Assateague, Kicklighter led the park in developing an innovative General Management Plan that addresses the potential impacts from climate change and sea level rise and oversaw various construction projects such as the seashore’s new visitor center and island ranger station, and helped with the creation of an environmental education facility.

Kicklighter also oversaw repairs from storm damage from four different storm and hurricane events at Assateague, most notably Hurricane Sandy last fall. She also led the effort to reduce the park’s carbon footprint by establishing a recycling program and increasing the use of solar power.

Last week, however, National Park Service officials announced she has been selected as the new superintendent of the New River Gorge National River and the associated Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River. She will succeed the park network’s former superintendent, who moved to Alaska earlier this year to become the superintendent of the Denali National Park and Preserve.

Kicklighter will begin her new position in mid-May although no timetable for her replacement at Assateague has been named on the eve of a new summer season. NPS officials praised Kicklighter for her work at Assateague and her future work in Missouri.

“Trish brings a wealth of experience to her new position,” said Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach. “She is a superb leader with a clear vision of how to cooperatively manage for the right balance of preservation and recreation. He groundbreaking work on the General Management Plan at Assateague set a new benchmark for the National Park Service in how we address the realities of climate change in various park environments.

For Kicklighter, the new position represents a homecoming of sorts. Kicklighter has spent 30 years working for the National Park Service. Kicklighter started her career in the Park Service as an interpreter at Ozark Scenic Riverways in Missouri and Cabrillo National Monument in California.

She then switched to administration specializing in budget at Point Reyes National Seashore, the Pacific West Regional Office and the Harpers Ferry Design Center.  In 2001, she transferred to Shenandoah National Park as the Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Administration where she was responsible for overall park operations. 

Kicklighter is a native Missourian, and graduated from Missouri State University with a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management.  She and her husband Wayne love to travel and especially enjoy canoeing and white water rafting.  Her other hobbies include being an avid quilter and photographer.

“I am honored to be chosen as the new Superintendent at New River Gorge,” she said.  “I started my career as a river ranger at Ozark National Scenic Riverways.  I am thrilled to be returning to my roots – a river and the mountains what a wonderful combination.”