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Long-time Big South Fork Ranger Howard Duncan to Retire

duncanOneida, Tennessee:  National Park Service Ranger Howard Duncan will retire on December 31, 2015, after 30 years at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  Duncan is a life-long resident of the Big South Fork area and has always had a deep personal connection to the lands that now make up the park, which he began exploring at an early age.  He started his career as a classroom teacher and elementary school principal in his native Fentress County, Tennessee.  He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education from Tennessee Technological University.

Duncan began his National Park Service career at Big South Fork in 1985 as one of only two interpretive rangers at the park.  During his time at Big South Fork, he has served as a frontline interpreter, as the park’s historic weapons supervisor, as Branch Chief of Visitor Services and most recently as the Education Specialist for Big South Fork and Obed Wild and Scenic River.  In addition to his primary duties as an interpretive ranger, he served for over twenty years as a wildland firefighter.  During that time he made numerous trips to the western states and assisted with many local wildfires and prescribed burns.  He was also involved in numerous search and rescue efforts over the years.  Duncan assisted with the development of the roads and trails plan as part of the park’s first General Management Plan and helped write the park’s first statement for interpretation and long range interpretive plan.  He was also closely involved in many park special events such as the Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival, the Spring Planting Festival and the Blue Heron Ghost Train.

Most visitors to the park will remember him for his engaging and informative interpretive programs and for the high quality personal service which he delivered.  “Howard’s depth of knowledge of the park and its history, and his institutional memory of the Big South Fork are truly amazing and will be greatly missed,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.

“Working for the National Park Service has been a wonderful opportunity and has been my life’s work,” stated Duncan.  “The mission of the National Park Service closely mirrors my own personal philosophy of educating visitors and helping them understand the importance of protecting the land and its resources.  Over the years, I have met thousands of people, many of whom have left a lasting impression on me.  I hope that as a park interpreter I have done the same for them.  Connecting with visitors and sharing the story of the Big South Fork has always been very rewarding for me.”

Duncan has no shortage of potential projects to keep him occupied during his impending retirement.  He and his wife Sue, who retired from the National Park Service at Big South Fork in 2012 after a full career as an interpretive park ranger, have a long list of plans, including hiking and horse riding in Big South Fork, visiting other national parks and spending time on their farm.  According to Duncan, his retirement marks only the beginning of a new chapter in his intimate connection with the lands of the Big South Fork, during which he plans to return regularly both as a visitor and as a park volunteer.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s more than 400 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

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