published Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Chattanooga native taking Park Service's top award with her to new job

Ranger Lisa Hendy at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
(National Park Service photo)
Ranger Lisa Hendy at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (National Park Service photo)

ABOUT HER

* Age: 39.

* Hometown: Chattanooga.

* Education: Girls Preparatory School, Auburn University (bachelor's degree in park management), Utah State (master's degree in exercise physiology and biometrics).

* Hobbies: Climbing, canyoneering, rafting.

GOVERNMENT VS. PARKS

"I think the Park Service has the best mission of any federal agency," she told the Washington Post. "We get to protect the most amazing places for the enjoyment of future generations. Our job is to make sure that some of the most spectacular monuments and places in the country are going to be there for the nation's children and grandchildren. You can be frustrated with the federal government all you want, but I don't know anyone who doesn't want that to happen. It's such a great mission."

The call came, according to Chattanooga native Lisa Hendy, when she was driving through Wyoming in a blizzard.

She'd just been selected to receive the National Park Service's 2011 Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award for excellence, in effect naming her the best ranger in the nation.

"I had to pull over when my supervisor told me," Hendy, 39, told OldWestNewWest.com Travel & History Magazine. "Afterward, I drove for a while trying to absorb the news and realized I was 11 miles past my turn-off. It was overwhelming."

The ranger, who was recently in Chattanooga rehabbing an ankle injury, is a law enforcement ranger in Grand Canyon National Park's Canyon District. Her official title is Canyon district patrol supervisor. In a week, she will become chief of the branch of emergency services at Yosemite National Park.

Since becoming a ranger in 1993, she also has worked in Rocky Mountain, Arches and Yellowstone national parks and once previously at Yosemite.

The Harry Yount Award is named after the country's first park ranger, who was hired at Yellowstone National Park in 1880. It is the highest honor bestowed on a park ranger today.

In his award nomination, Grand Canyon Chief Ranger Bill Wright said on any given day Hendy might be found rappelling over a cliff to stabilize a patient, working with the park's Special Response Team to do a building sweep, responding with the structural fire engine to a burning RV, providing advanced life support care as a paramedic or patrolling the backcountry checking permits, stirring toilets and assessing archeological sites.

"Ranger Hendy is one of those rangers who can be sent to any call," he said. "[She] is one of that rare breed ... that simply excel[s] at every aspect of rangering."

Hendy, who attended Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, said she stood on the shoulders of fellow rangers in accepting the award.

More with Hendy

Q: Is there a lot of variety in what you do?

A: I teach high-angle technical rescue for the NPS (National Park Service) and am a field training ranger. I am a commissioned federal officer, swift-water rescue and short-haul qualified. I am also a paramedic.

Q: What's the best thing about your job?

A: The innumerable amazing officers within the agency with whom I get to work. Their dedication and hard work are inspiring every day.

Q: What's the worst thing?

A: The wail of a mother who has just lost her child.

Q: What is the most beautiful site you have seen in a National Park?

A: Sunrise in Moraine Park meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall when there is snow in the mountains and the aspen are starting to turn.

Q: Why did you want to become a park ranger?

A: "I was initially a criminal justice major at Auburn University, and I came to the realization I didn't want to be stuck in a city or a car all the time," she told Arizona Highways. "I had a good professor who suggested I look into the land management agencies. I got an internship in Yosemite, and when I got a look at what the National Park Service had to offer for emergency services, I was sold. I changed my major to park management before it was all said and done, but honestly that would not have mattered much. Either would have done."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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