GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The superintendent at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is stepping down.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Superintendent Dale Ditmanson will retire on Jan. 3, after spending 36 years with the National Park Service. He has been superintendent of the Smokies since 2004.
During his decade at the helm, the Smokies received $80 million in funding for infrastructure improvements such as restoring trails and historical cemeteries, renovating buildings and repaving roads.
Ditmanson said the high point of his tenure was celebrating the park's 75th anniversary in 2009.
"For two or three years we talked about the anniversary not being just a birthday party," Ditmanson said. "We wanted to establish a legacy."
He says he's looking forward to traveling after retirement.
"If my job was what most people think it is, hiking in the park with a bluebird on my shoulder and a bear at my side, I wouldn't retire at all," Ditmanson said. "A lot of a superintendent's work is being an administrator behind the scenes. I've loved every minute of it, but now it's time for my wife and me to put some miles on our car and visit other national parks."