Ashley Adams isn’t from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley but she feels like she has returned home.
The new deputy superintendent for the Nez Perce National Historical Park, Whitman Mission National Historic Site and Big Hole National Battlefield grew up in Montana, and her career in the park service drew her away from the Northwest for about a decade. When the opportunity to be based at Spalding came open, Adams jumped at the chance.
Craig Clohessy: Have you always wanted to work for the National Park system?
Ashley Adams: It’s something that I always did dream of being able to do. My dad is a seasonal park ranger up in Glacier National Park, and I spent my summers growing up in Glacier National Park and just fell in love with the park service system, fell in love with the concept of these majestic places and these amazing resources that are available to everybody.
I didn’t think that it would be a possibility ... because the people who worked at the park service I held in such esteem that you know it seemed just magical to be able to get to that place. ... I started out as a seasonal ranger in Glacier National Park and then I worked briefly in Crater Lake National Park and then went to our national office in Washington, D.C., and worked for the National Wilderness Stewardship Program. That was where I had my first permanent position was in Washington, D.C. ...
Then I was lucky enough to be able to come out to Yosemite National Park. ... Through my career I worked briefly with the Bureau of Land Management with Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and then had this opportunity to come up to Idaho and to become a deputy superintendent, which is part of the park leadership.
CC: I hear the title deputy superintendent and, I’ll be honest with you, I have no idea what that means.
AA: I get asked that, “So what does that mean?” ... The superintendent is usually the person who is more outward focus and doing community relations, political work. They are the leader of the park in terms of setting strategic goals and vision. The deputy superintendent tends to be more operational — translating the strategic vision and goals ... we are doing as a leadership team, so not just the superintendent and the deputy but also our division chiefs, our leads for our different program areas. ... I’m more hands-on of operations. ... Are we getting our programs done, are our facilities being maintained, are we meeting our objectives for our natural and cultural resources programs?
CC: You have oversight of three units. Talk a little bit about what that means.
AA: There’s Big Hole National Battle Field (near Dillon, Mont.), Whitman Mission National Historic Site (west of Walla Walla) and Nez Perce National Historic Park (headquartered at Spalding). Each one is an individual, distinct National Park Service unit. Internally the way we manage it is that those three units report up through myself and our superintendent. ... For the visiting public they are their own distinct and unique park service units. But the common theme that does run through them is Nez Perce culture and history.
CC: Do you spend time at all three locations?
AA: I’m based out of Spalding, but I do try to go to Big Hole and Whitman on a regular basis. ... I don’t have living quarters or a permanent dedicated office in those locations. It’s more of I’ll go for a week to Big Hole or I will go for a week to Whitman and be there. And obviously between them lots of calls and emails and general staying in touch.
CC: Everyone knows about the larger parks, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc., but the smaller ones like Spalding don’t have quite that same name familiarity. What efforts have been made and are being made to promote these smaller locations?
AA: Great question. So there’s a couple efforts. People are kind of familiar with (one) because it’s a national effort that was first initiated in 2016 for the National Park Service centennial anniversary. It’s called Find Your Park.
The effort for that was to help the public understand and help the public realize what amazing resources they have in their backyard — National Park Service units but (also) city parks, county parks, or other protected lands or public lands such as Forest Service lands or Bureau of Land Management lands.
The effort helps people realize, “Hey, what should I look for, you know, who is in my backyard. Maybe I should go out and check out Nez Perce and Spalding.” Or, “Hey, I live in Walla Walla, oh there are Whitman missions located here.”
But outside of the national campaign, with Mike Gauthier coming here as superintendent and with me coming on, one of our focuses is really to reach out to the local communities as well and increase our programming for the local communities, to be really involved and help people in the regional and local area realize that we’re here as a resource, that we’re here as a great opportunity to bring families and university students to check things out. We are really trying to build those community connections, both with our partnerships with the tribes but also the local communities of Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow, Walla Walla, Wisdom, Dillon, all of our local communities.
CC: When you’re not working at what sounds like a great job, what else do you do for fun?
AA: First and foremost, my great love is hiking. I live for a backpack on my shoulders and a trail in front of me. This area has so many different options for hiking. I’m also a big runner and I’m a water person. I’m really excited about being next to the Snake River to be able to go out and do some more water sports. I used to row crew in college and I’m hoping to do some more of that. And I know this area is a huge rivers area, so I have some friends who do rafting and I’d really like to get into rafting and learn more about spending time on the rivers and how to do that safely. It’s beautiful, beautiful country.
CC: Anything else you’d like to add?
AA: Just how excited I am to be here in Idaho and to be back in the Northwest. This really feels like home to me and the community already has been incredibly welcoming. I’m so very appreciative of the opportunity to be working here with the park service and to be working here with a community. I just feel like I’ve come home.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2251.
Name: Ashley Adams
Title/occupation: Deputy superintendent, Nez Perce National Historical Park, Whitman Mission National Historic Site and Big Hole National Battlefield.
Family: Extended family in Montana
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Stanford University, 2000; master’s in environmental management, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, 2009.
Work history: Seasonal trail maintenance, then seasonal backcountry ranger in Glacier National Park (1998-2007); baker at Great Harvest Bread Company in Missoula, Mont., 2002-06, seasonally; natural resource specialist for the National Park Service Wilderness Stewardship national office in Washington, D.C. (2009-13); National Park Service Hetch Hetchy program manager and Yosemite Conservancy liaison for Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, Calif. (2013-16); Bureau of Land Management National Monument manager of Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, Palm Springs, Calif. (2016-19); current position started in November.
Hobbies/interests: Hiking, running, rowing, ceramics, baking bread, voracious book reader.
Do you have any hidden talents, or is there anything else that might surprise people about you?: Studied lemurs in Madagascar for a summer in 1999.