Lawyer with no park experience will run Grand Canyon

Hikers sit by the edge of the cliffs of the Grand Canyon in 2019.
/Sébastien Duval/ AFP via Getty Images

By Dino Grandoni with Paulina Firozi | The Washington Post

In an unusual move causing some concern among current and former park employees, the Trump administration has named a longtime government lawyer to run the Grand Canyon, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.

Leaders at the Park Service on Friday picked Ed Keable, a longtime Interior Department lawyer, to be the next superintendent of the massive Arizona park. Now some observers are scratching their heads since it breaks with long tradition to put someone who has never worked directly in the park system in charge of one of the nation’s most iconic and visited parks. 

“It was a very surprising appointment,” said Robert Arnberger, who served as the Grand Canyon superintendent from 1994 to 2000. “It’s unorthodox in many ways.”

The decision comes as park leaders have been criticized for shutting down parks too slowly in the midst of the growing coronavirus pandemic. The popular Grand Canyon received top-level approval to close to the public only days after a resident of the housing complex at the South Rim tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — and only after asking officials in Washington twice for permission to shut the gates.

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