Rick Slade was born and raised in Kansas and was accustomed to seeing far and wide across the prairie. Nowadays, when he looks out his office window, he has to crane his neck to look up the steep hillside through a heavy forest of trees to see the sky.

Slade became the superintendent of Catoctin Mountain Park at the beginning of May of this year. He replaced Superintendent Mel Poole, who retired last year after a thirty-seven-year career with the National Park Service.

Slade began his career with the National Park Service in 2003. After graduate school, he was working with the federal government, reviewing GAO programs.

“I realized that I was more interested in conservation work, and a friend encouraged me to apply for the National Park Service,” recalled Slade.

He applied, but he didn’t hold out a lot of hope for getting in because the National Park Service has a reputation of being a tough federal department to enter.

He was accepted for a position with the Amistad National Recreation Area.

“I liked it because it was jointly run by the United States and Mexico,” Slade said.

The area is created by the Amistad Reservoir in Mexico, but the result is a beautiful area in two countries.

He enjoyed the work. His wife worked as a midwife and spoke Spanish and English.

He moved back east and took a position with the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia in 2003. In 2013, he became the superintendent of Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick.

Moving to Catoctin Mountain Park is a step up in responsibility for Slade. He is managing double the staff, with double the budget, in a park that has three times the acreage.

“There are layers of history here,” Slade said. “It’s endlessly fascinating.”

While Catoctin Mountain Park and Monocacy National Battlefield have different characters, he finds them both beautiful parks.

“This park [Catoctin Mountain Park] is a gem within the park service, though,” stated Slade. “I don’t think it gets the national recognition it deserves.”

He pointed out that Catoctin Mountain Park has the high level of customer satisfaction of any park in the Capital Region.

“That quality needs to be maintained,” added Slade.

While he is still learning the ins and outs of his new park, he is enjoying the process. One of the changes that he expects visitors will see is new exhibits that are being planned for the visitor’s center. Behind the scenes, Slade said that some of the park’s infrastructure dates back to the 1930s and needs to be updated.

“The park has good bones,” Slade said. “We need to keep doing well what we do well.”

Courtesy Photo


Rick Slade, new superintendent of Catoctin Mountain Park.

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