PARK MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION
While the planning team created a document from which the ideal future of the park would emerge, the rest of park staff went about the daily business of running one of the largest parks in the continental United States. The Preserve's several administrative teams all faced a remarkable diversity of issues. The history of pre-Park Service low-key management of the eastern Mojave was the indirect catalyst for episodes where user expectations clashed with the Park Service's mission of preservation and protection of the resources of the desert. The Preserve's proximity to two interstate freeways and the greater Los Angeles urban area changed the shape and focus of the park's visitor and resource protection measures, giving Mojave National Preserve management issues more common in urban parks like Golden Gate NRA. Mojave's management also tackled other concerns, like personnel issues and maintenance, that have been addressed by nearly all parks but that were nonetheless crucial to the proper functioning of the Preserve.
Top-level managers organized the administrative structure of the Preserve into several teams, each with separate areas of responsibility. Dave Paulissen, one of the park's original employees, has led the administration and maintenance division since its inception. Chief Ranger Sean McGuinness leads the resource and visitor protection division and also bore responsibility for interpretation programming until the Preserve hired Mary "Jeff" Karraker in 2001 to head up a separate interpretation unit. Larry Whalon supervises the intricate complexities of the resource management division. This chapter addresses management and administrative issues; chapter seven explores the history of resource protection and interpretation at the Preserve; and chapter eight examines resource management themes.
The management of Mojave National Preserve, perhaps more than other aspects of the park, reflects the Preserve's early days. The management team is close-knit, innovative, and flexible. One of the most remarkable features of the management process is that the division leaders have mutually agreed that salaries will not exceed 75 percent of the total base budget. Typical parks have upward of 90 percent of their total base budget tied up in salary expenses. The result is a greater degree of flexibility for Mojave - the agreement makes it possible to fund projects that are unforeseen but necessary. One example of such a program was the funding of the first two years of the burro removal program. Eventually, the park received money from a national fund dedicated to resource protection to continue the work begun by the park, but if some burro mitigation measures had not been taken when they did, the problem would have quickly spiraled out of control because of the burro's prolific reproduction. This 75 percent cap agreement, though unwritten, is very clear to all of the managers, and trust between them makes it possible to continue the practice to the benefit of the park. 
Another unusual practice, predicated on trust between the division leaders, is the management team's negotiation over all new hires. If an existing position goes vacant, it is not automatically filled with an identical replacement - the position is discussed by the management team, and the salary dollars may be put to use in a different capacity or division, to better reflect the park's adjusted priorities. When viewed in contrast to the image of a stereotypical park, where division chiefs are loathe to give up control over any dollars or positions because they might not get them back, the practice seems remarkable indeed, and helps Mojave make the most of its limited fiscal resources amid shifting priorities.
The top management team long administered the park in a hands-on kind of way, which stems from times when the park staff was much smaller. Weekly all-staff meetings were the norm for many years, where top leaders not only developed management philosophy for the park, but also made many day-to-day decisions. Explains David Moore:
The staff retains a vestigial flexibility as well. The management team emphasized solving problems, not necessarily working within any given employee's particular job description. Veteran employees joke of times when no one really wanted to answer the outside telephone line, since whomever picked up the receiver would undoubtedly be saddled with a new project or investigation if the caller needed something specific. As the park staff has grown in size and the backlog of unaddressed issues has been reduced, the need for such staff flexibility has been reduced, but not eliminated. Staff members still routinely take on assignments outside their traditional areas of expertise when asked to do so.
Something is clearly working well, for the Preserve has garnered several major awards in its short history. In 1995, the park received the Secretary's Award for the law enforcement investigation that led to the arrest and incarceration of two men who were dumping highly hazardous compounds on NPS lands. In 2001, Mojave received the NPS Director's "Park Wilderness Stewardship Award" in recognition of several accomplishments, including the Catellus land swap agreement, the acquisition of the Overson grazing allotments, the work with the California Integrated Waste Management Board to clean up hazardous waste and trash in the Preserve at low cost, and the marking and patrol of wilderness boundaries. 
One common criticism of the eastern Mojave during the debate over the California Desert Protection Act was that the area did not have the scenic qualities of a park. The inaccuracy of that assertion was again demonstrated in a small but significant way in March 2001. Kodak and the National Park Foundation sponsored the "Experience Your America Photo Contest," for the best photo taken in a national park. David Aikenhead, a California resident, won "honorable mention" with his photo of a person amid a sea of wildflowers in the Mojave National Preserve. 
Every national park has had to face problems that arise from visitors' expectations that differ from the course of action required by the Park Service's mission, but Mojave National Preserve has seemingly faced more than its share of these issues, chiefly because of the area's governance under BLM's much more lenient rules less than a decade ago. One of the most unusual incidents began as a minor movement of performance art enthusiasts and their followers rose to international prominence as they worshiped the object of their affection - a lonely telephone booth, at the end of a long string of poles. Park Service employees were amused at first, but chuckles turned to concerns as visitor traffic increased and booth enthusiasts left behind offerings of art and junk, like pilgrims at a pop culture shrine. Concerned about impacts to desert resources, aware of the expiration of the expiration of Pacific Bell's right-of-way, and unmoved by the apparently frivolous arguments of the phone booth users, the NPS ensured the booth's removal. Booth enthusiasts flooded Mojave headquarters with angry emails and phone calls, and charged the Park Service with only welcoming certain kinds of visitors with open arms, the counterculture's retread of the argument used by almost any group that finds the NPS mission in the way of their personal use of a public place.
A telephone was placed in the California desert around 1948 along a telephone line that stretched from Highway 91 through the east Mojave to Route 66. The idea was to provide local cinder miners with a means of communication with the outside world. The phone itself, known as "Cinder Peak 2," had to be cranked by hand. Emerson Ray, owner and operator of the nearby Cima Cinder Mine, requested the installation of the booth. Sometime in the mid-1960's the phone was replaced with a regular payphone, which was upgraded again sometime in the late 1980s as touch-tone payphones became the norm. 
The phone had long been listed on American Automobile Association maps of the area - the word "Telephone" at the junction of a couple of dirt roads. Early visitors to the booth were lured to the area by the apparent incongruity of a telephone seemingly in the middle of nowhere, 15 miles from a paved road. In May 1997, one traveler wrote a letter to a fan "'zine" for the Washington band "Girl Trouble," describing the remote phone. This fired the imagination of Godfrey Daniels, a Tempe, Arizona-based computer programmer and sometime artist, who resolved to call the booth's number every day until he received a response. His breakthrough occurred in late June 1997, less than a month after he started calling, when he reached Lorene Caffee, operator of the local cinder mine, as she made calls from the booth.  Daniels, in a transcript of the phone call posted on his website, was clearly thunderstruck by the fact that the booth actually existed, and vowed to visit some day.
Daniels made his first trip to the site in late August 1997, after receiving a Xeroxed map of the area from Dennis Casebier. He got lost, presaging the experience of hundreds who would follow in his tire tracks, and arrived after dark. Still, the booth inspired him:
The story of the booth spread rapidly, posted by Daniels on his website and popularized through contacts in the counterculture art world. When he first made a trip to the booth, no one called - Daniels paged a friend so he could hear what an incoming ring sounded like. Most of the commentors on his website were friends from the art world or people who happened across the site accidentally. A series of radio appearances and small news articles, starting as early as 1998 and increased in frequency by April 1999, drew more visitors to Daniels' webpage. The overall tone was still friendly. One writer detailed her plans for an Easter weekend campout, and Daniels replied that he would try to show up.  Phone traffic could be heavy if a trip to the booth was publicized in advance. Camping overnight at the booth on his way to the 1998 Burning Man festival, the phone rang almost constantly, enough so that Daniels had to take the receiver off the hook to get some sleep. 
Media attention began to spread the word about the funky telephone booth in the middle of nowhere. A visitor in early July 1999 logged three calls in an hour and a half, more than typical but hardly a portent of things to come.  As news of the booth spread, the number of visitors to the area also increased. The new enthusiasts came from all walks of life, but they all had the phone booth in common. Andria Fiegel Wolfe, an interior designer from New York, flew cross-country with her sister to answer calls at the booth in their birthday suits. Two southern California men, who had only met online, took a roadtrip to the booth to hang up the receiver when they received constant busy signals. An Arizona man, Rick Karr, acting on orders from the Holy Spirit, spent more than a month camped beside the booth in the middle of summer in 1999. Karr read scripture to astonished callers and documented every one in a logbook, recording over 500 calls. Mike Sims and Ron Kling set up a party at the booth, complete with food and a punk band, to promote their website. 
The story of the "loneliest phone booth in the world" was picked up by major news outlets after mid-1999, and the added publicity proved fatal to the booth. Flash News Service first told of the new phenomenon, and the story was subsequently investigated by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the San Bernardino Sun, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, among others. When news of the booth, along with maps and directions, appeared in major papers serving populations within driving distance of the location, the increase in visitors to the site was enormous. The Los Angeles Times reported Daniels' plans for a Y2K celebration at the booth, and the deluge of self-invitations from people who wanted to be part of the action convinced Daniels to stay away. Dozens of TV crews, including major nationwide networks, made the trip to the Mojave. The phone would hardly be placed in the cradle before it would ring again. Even David Letterman did a spoof, documenting "the mic stand in the middle of nowhere."  Those people who had learned of the booth's existence before the media blitz lamented its newfound popularity. One wistful post noted that "Something kinda dies after Brokaw gets ahold of it...know what I mean?" 
Many of the residents of the area did not mind the popularity. Charlie Wilcox, a local with a tow truck, made money from ill-prepared booth visitors who ignored warnings not to take two-wheel drive cars on the sandy roads. However, one nearby rancher, Tim Overson, was not happy with the booth or the unusual people who gravitated to it. His frustration was due in part to the fact that the best road to the phone ran literally right through his front yard, and when people got stuck, they often knocked on his door. Mary Martin noted Overson's method of occasional revenge: "although he won't admit it - he'd go on out and cut the wire." 
Nothing prepared Mojave management for the popularity of a lonely phone booth. Pacific Bell's right-of-way for the phone booth expired in 1992, and the company hadn't bothered to renew it. The line wasn't very profitable, and much of the need for the cross-desert telephone link had been eliminated when a microwave tower was installed further south, leaving the Mojave Phone Booth at the end of a long line of poles.
With the increased notoriety of the booth and the extensive activity at the site, the NPS grew ill at ease. In early May, park staff happened upon a campfire at the booth, blazing away unattended. This was the final straw: Park Service officials "had a chat" with Pac-Bell and encouraged the phone company to remove the booth. Without notice, Pacific Bell hauled the booth away on May 17, 2000, leaving the counterculture in mourning and the press writing requiems for the "loneliest phone booth on Earth." 
The Park Service was deluged with emails, phone calls, and letters from outraged supporters of the telephone booth. Daniels posted Superintendent Martin's park phone number and email address on his website, and exhorted booth supporters to call: "Do it. Do it. Do it till you're satisfied."  Many pro-booth correspondents pointed out the appearance of hypocrisy: "[I]sn't this a form of recreation? I thought our system of National Parks was for recreational use?"  Almost all protested NPS claims of environmental damage in the area. Some took issue with other parts of the boilerplate NPS reply, which charged booth visitors with bringing decorative white quartz rock to the site and interpreted a note that one user left at the booth reminding visitors to the keep the area clean as evidence of the volume of trash left behind by visitors.  Others were threats, including one bomb threat that sounded serious enough to prompt the Park Service to call the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Many supporters attempted to verbalize their affections for the booth: "It had SOMETHING...something about it was almost mysterious."  "Folks...had a possibility to get out for a while from their every day life..."  "I'll probably be mourning its death on and off for the rest of my life."  The rhetoric of loss, while exaggerated, seemingly reflects a real depth of feeling about the phone booth. The NPS did receive a small number of letters in support of its action, from the National Parks Conservation Association and other individuals who resented the booth as a man-made intrusion inconsistent with the features that were supposed to exist in national parks. 
The furor took a considerable time to die down. Almost two years after the booth's removal, the superintendent continued to receive several booth-related emails a week. The incident and the subsequent reaction after the booth was removed illustrate the difficulties posed to the Park Service by the history of the eastern Mojave as a working landscape. When applied to a place that had long been managed for multiple uses, the NPS mission of preservation and protection can seem unduly restrictive to users wishing little resistance to their exercise of unlimited freedom in the form of worshiping a quirky phone booth on public lands.
The Park Service encountered a similarly furious reaction when it announced plans to remove another odd cultural item in the Mojave National Preserve. This time, the outcome was different, and the item in question was saved. In 1934, the Death Valley chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars constructed a wooden cross atop a pile of rocks along Cima Road. As an adjacent sign explained, the memorial was intended to honor "the dead of all wars."  The site was the location of occasional resident get-togethers as well as regular Easter sunrise services, and became known as "Sunrise Rock." The sign and the cross both fell victim to vandalism, but area residents reconstructed the cross each time it was damaged. The current version, some eight feet of iron pipe welded to bolts sunk in holes drilled into the granite rock, was constructed by Henry Sandoz, who takes care of the area in memory of his late friend, J. Riley Bembry, who helped construct the original cross. BLM apparently paid little attention to the cross, which was only one of several on BLM desert lands, and the Park Service took a similarly laissez-faire attitude toward the memorial after the park was established. In May 1999, a Buddhist monk attempted to receive permission to construct a stupa on the site. Citing their eventual intention to remove the cross, the park denied the monk's request. 
In 1999, after he left the Park Service, former Mojave employee Frank Buono contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California and informed them about the existence of the cross. On October 6, 1999, the ACLU formally requested removal of the cross, and threatened to sue if their demand was not met. In compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, NPS Historian Mark Luellen from the Pacific Great Basin Support Office spent several days in early November 1999 researching the history of the cross. The item's dual purpose, both religious and as a memorial, plus the fact that it had been reconstructed several times, made its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places extremely doubtful. It looked like the cross might have to go, but Preserve management dragged their feet on the actual removal. The action would certainly be extremely unpopular with local residents, so there seemed to be no advantage in hurrying the situation. 
While the Park Service delayed action, word of the pressure to remove the cross spread. Kathy Davis, San Bernardino County Supervisor for the area, sent Martin a letter urging retention of the memorial. In January 2000, Assistant DOI Solicitor Larry Bradfish sent the ACLU more information about the cross in response to the latter's request. When the ACLU again contacted Bradfish in July 2000 to see if action had taken place, the group was informed that Preserve officials decided not to do anything about the cross. The ACLU repeated its threat to sue in a letter to the director of the National Park Service in early August, noting that the area could be made a forum for free expression or the cross could be temporarily built each year under permit for specific religious ceremonies, as at Easter sunrise services at Grand Canyon National Park. Noting both that case law was overwhelmingly clear that the cross would have to go and that any court would probably assess damages against government employees who knew about the cross but did nothing about it, the ACLU declared its intent to sue if action was not taken by early October 2000. 
The threat to pursue damages against individual employees caught the attention of Mojave National Preserve's management team, and Martin decided reluctantly in October that the cross would have to come down. The Park Service informed the ACLU of its decision, and stated that the cross would be removed by the end of the year. In the meantime, newspapers picked up the story, and angry locals prompted Rep. Jerry Lewis to address the issue. In December 2000, Lewis added a rider to a fiscal year 2001 appropriations bill that prohibited the Park Service from using any federal money to remove the cross; in other words, the NPS could not take action on government time. This granted the cross a year-long reprieve, but in March 2001 the ACLU filed suit to have the matter resolved in court. 
The Preserve was caught between the ACLU lawsuit and federal action taken by Jerry Lewis. Park employees, including Martin, gave depositions in the case, and the Department of the Interior's Solicitor's office represented the park and DOI employees named in the suit. In August 2001, the cross was a topic on national television show "CBS Sunday Morning," which helped gain nationwide publicity, then in December 2001, Lewis added a rider to the FY 2002 Defense appropriations bill, which made the cross a national memorial in honor of veterans of World War I and allocated $10,000 to create a plaque for the site. Cross supporters believed that the area's designation as a national memorial, equivalent to national battlefields with their rows of crosses, would have an effect on the ACLU lawsuit, but the organization contended that the suit would continue as planned. In summer 2002, the Preserve awaited word from NPS offices in Washington, D.C., to begin action on the new memorial, when U.S. District Court Judge Robert Timlin ruled in favor of the ACLU, declaring that the cross constitutes "a message of endorsement of religion" by the federal government. Judge Timlin ordered the cross removed, though he did not set a deadline. The Justice Department, backed by Lewis, asked for a delay and guidance in order to comply with both the ruling and the Congressional directive declaring the cross a national memorial. Lewis began negotiations to transfer the cross and the land around it to Henry and Wanda Sandoz, nearby residents who take care of the cross, in exchange for land elsewhere in the Preserve owned by the couple. In February 2003, the Department of Justice declared its intention to appeal the ruling of the District Court, but advised the NPS to cover the cross with a tarp until the situation is resolved. 
The controversy over the cross on Sunrise Rock illustrates the difficulties for the Park Service that happen when the agency finds itself at the middle of a struggle over contested meanings of a public symbol. To local residents, the cross was a religious symbol, and a patriotic tribute to America's veterans. It also served as a source of local identity, giving residents a focal point around which to gather and to rally. While the phone booth attracted a constituency made up mostly of outsiders, local residents argued to keep the cross intact. Lewis took his constituents's concerns seriously, and the cross, preserved as a national memorial inside Mojave National Preserve, would certainly have been removed without his actions. Both the Mojave Phone Booth and the cross on Sunrise Rock highlight how different groups find meaning in curious artifacts in Mojave National Preserve, and how the Park Service frequently ends up in the middle of conflicts over which interpretation triumphs in the end.
While only a handful of parks have ever become embroiled in disputes over publicly displayed religious symbols, every park must concern itself with personnel issues and maintenance of park facilities. The basic administration of a park is not glamorous, but human resources and maintenance are both essential parts of the foundation of the park.
Personnel management at Mojave National Preserve was guided by Marcia Schramm from the establishment of the park until her departure in September 2002. Schramm brought up-to-date human resources solutions to the problem of hiring and retaining a diverse and productive park staff. In 1997, all employees attended a week-long training session on Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," and all members of the management team received diversity training.  Marcia Schramm represented Mojave National Preserve on the Pacific-West Region's Equal Opportunity Diversity Advisory Committee throughout her tenure. Schramm and other managers formulated a diversity plan in 1997-1998, utilizing the regional committee's plan as a model. The plan's focus was for the Preserve workforce to "reflect the diversity of the American population." The document outlined a series of objectives and strategies to achieve those objectives, including conducting more recruiting among underrepresented groups and creating a plan to enhance the quality of work life.  The park was very successful in hiring more diverse candidates in both its seasonal hires and in additions to the permanent park staff. For example, in fiscal year 1999, seven out of eight temporary hires and four out of six permanent employees were either women or minorities, and the following year the statistic was four out of six temporary and six of six permanent hires. 
The employee geography of Mojave National Preserve, which sees more than half of all personnel clustered in Barstow, and the rest distributed in or near the park at Baker, Needles, Hole-in-the-Wall, and Kelso, is not conducive to maintaining good headquarters/field relationships. In recognition, the Preserve administration took many concrete steps to forge all employees into a team, and to increase headquarters/field employee communication. The tradition of having an all-employee campout in the park every year, started in the wake of the Dollar Budget, became an excellent way for park staff to come together in a team spirit. Other steps, such as ensuring field employee participation on the Work-Life Issues Committee and development of an internal park website, also helped bring all of the employees closer together. Mojave National Preserve established the Work-Life Issues Committee in FY1998 to address issues of concern to park employees and to help make the Mojave workplace a better place, in keeping with the diversity plan's goal to retain a more diverse workforce. The committee tackled issues such as improving park housing for field employees and creating a park-wide safety plan.  Schramm's use of modern human-resources practices, such as addressing the issue of diversity in the workplace, ensuring total employee participation in team building exercises, and formation and ongoing use of an employee-led work-life committee, contributed positively to the employee culture at the Preserve.
Mojave National Preserve's maintenance operations can also be described as applying current best practice to the situations faced by the new park. Mojave explicitly learned the lessons from the experiences of other parks. The Preserve consciously attempted to avoid creating any more facilities that require maintenance in the park itself, and instead contracted its vehicle maintenance and other work to reputable outside vendors. Likewise, the maintenance yards themselves were located in a former CalTrans yard in Baker, where suitable facilities already existed and the Preserve therefore avoided the cost of new construction. Nonetheless, when park facilities were in need of work, the maintenance was done with the goal of fixing the problem completely, as evidenced by the comprehensive overhauls received by the two main campgrounds. The maintenance team of the Preserve is also noted for innovative solutions to enhance park facilities.
The park campgrounds at Mid Hills and Hole-in-the-Wall were inherited from the Bureau of Land Management, who constructed them in the 1960s.  When the Park Service took over the campgrounds, the Hole-in-the-Wall site had been recently overhauled and was in good shape, but the Mid Hills facility was in desperate need of repair. In a multi-year project, the table tops and benches, fire rings, vault toilets, campsite markers, interpretive displays, and gravel roads were replaced or refinished at Mid Hills, and new trash cans and an informative bulletin board were installed at Hole-in-the-Wall. The water systems at both campgrounds were also subjected to major overhauls. BLM did not regularly check the water quality at Mid Hills, and when the park first checked the water, it tested positive for e.coli bacteria, because of a contaminated water storage tank. This got the attention of the Regional Director, who made it a priority to get the water system completely overhauled and replaced, a task completed by 1999. At Hole-in-the-Wall, water lines running to the campground and the fire center were replaced, and the process of upgrading the water lines in the campground itself is underway as of 2002. 
Maintenance needs often dovetailed with measures to better protect park resources. A series of measures upgrading the visitors' parking lot and shade shelter at Zzyzx included installation of raven-proof trash cans, to avoid adding to the numbers of exotic predators feeding on baby desert tortoises. At Kelso Dunes, an upgrade program resulted in similar armored trash cans, new vault toilets to eliminate issues with human waste, a fence to reduce the number of trails across the sensitive dunes, and an oiled road, to keep dust levels down and increase the Preserve's air quality. These and other maintenance tasks were largely accomplished by Mojave's small regular maintenance staff when possible, assisted by the park fire crew if needed. 
In 1997 and 1998, Administrative Officer Dave Paulissen coordinated a partnership with Sandia National Laboratory and Southern California Edison to get a solar-photovoltaic generation system to replace a noisy propane-powered generator at the visitors' center at Hole-in-the-Wall. The new Hole-in-the-Wall fire center was also powered by sunlight. These systems promote the use of green energy, and may provide an example to park inholders, most of whom have to rely on generators for power. 
The Preserve's administration approached even seemingly minor tasks with a participatory spirit. As a new park, Mojave had no insignia for letterhead and official patches. The park sponsored a design contest for the logo. Jim Vanderford and Jeff Garrett, both employees of Lake Mead NRA, each earned $200 for their collaboration on the winning symbol. Administration also had to create entrance monuments for the six major entrances to the Preserve. In a creative attempt to increase community identification with the park and transcend typical wooden signs, Mojave held a design competition for the new monuments. The winning entry, announced in 1997, garnered a $1,000 prize for the artist, Jodie Peterson of the Denver Service Center. The monuments were installed in 1999, and each feature a three dimensional iron Joshua Tree that casts shadows on the classic desert-colored backgrounds. 
Though management teams, personnel issues, and maintenance operations are not the flashiest aspects of Mojave National Preserve (or any other park), they play integral roles in the ongoing functioning of the park. A close study of all three at Mojave reveals similar themes: cutting edge theory applied to everyday practice, close-knit groups to emphasize teamwork, creative and innovative partnerships to reduce costs and protect resources, and important flexibility to deal with the myriad of unique and common issues facing the park on a regular basis.
Last Updated: 05-Apr-2004