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Contact: Tom Baker, Management Assistant, (906) 483-3016
(Calumet, MI) Jim Corless, superintendent at Keweenaw National Historical Park, announced his retirement today, effective October 31. Jim’s Federal service includes 29-1/2 years with the National Park Service (NPS) and two years with the U.S. Navy. Jim served at eleven parks throughout his NPS career, including such diverse locations as Yosemite National Park, the White House, Klondike Gold Rush NHP, Hopewell Furnace NHP, Lowell NHP, and Ozark National Scenic Riverways,. With his B.A. in U.S. history, Jim’s career has been spent primarily at historic sites.
Jim describes his career with the NPS as typically untypical for those who work at multiple national parks during their career. "I’ve skinned (driven) mules on the C&O Canal and, literally, skinned a bear for a nature center exhibit at Yosemite." At Yosemite, where his daughter, Virginia, attended a one-room school, Corless oversaw two major interpretation projects and established the model for tactile outdoor exhibits that allows visitors with visual impairments to experience the nuances of the landscape. Also at Yosemite, Corless played a visitor advocacy role in the planning to match facilities in Yosemite Valley with visitor needs and resource preservation goals. "Those were among the most fulfilling years in my career," Corless says, "as the planning got right at the heart of the NPS mission of providing high quality access to visitors while protecting what they are coming to these national treasures to experience. "
Jim arrived at Keweenaw NHP in June of 2007, quickly noting that Keweenaw differs from most of the parks he served. "Rather than a park where the NPS owns most of the lands and historic resources within it, the vast majority of resources here are owned by individuals, local governments, and organizations, and the NPS role is one of advocacy and coordination, providing technical assistance and funding to owners of historic properties, sites, and museums that provide visitor services to the public." He notes that the park – what he calls a "parknership" – resulted from local efforts to draw national attention to the history preserved here, and that many of those individuals and organizations continue to contribute to the national park experience. "Here we have partners with the NPS all contributing to the visitor experience and to a common historic preservation ideal."
His work has included development of the Union Building in Calumet as the park’s first visitor center, a system of Keweenaw Heritage Site road signs that will be installed next spring, and working with numerous community partners in developing a strategy for the preservation of the 30-acre Quincy Smelter complex owned by Franklin Township. "I am proud of the technical assistance that the outstanding NPS employees provide to our partners."
He also praises the park’s citizen-based volunteer Advisory Commission and its executive director for the role they play in supporting park partners and in preservation advocacy. "While I’ve worked a lot with partners throughout my career, the energy and enthusiasm of the Copper Country community in preserving its own nationally significant history is amazing to me. What a great place to culminate my formal work with the national parks!"
Corless will be moving with his wife Mary Jane from their historic Laurium home – "the coolest house we’ve ever lived in," he says – to the southwest coast of Florida, where he plans to join Mary Jane in her cruise consulting business, advance his photography skills, and seek new ways to continue his life’s work of preserving our nation’s history.
The selection of a successor for Corless at Keweenaw NHP is expected to be completed before Jim’s departure to help provide a seamless transition for the park.