News Release

National Park Service announces David Smith as Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s new superintendent

A white man smiles in a gray NPS uniform shirt and tan flat hat stands in front of a tan/gray rock wall. He is only visable from the chest up.


News Release Date: January 9, 2023

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The National Park Service (NPS) has selected David Smith, a 31-year veteran of the agency, as the new permanent superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) beginning late January 2023. Smith has been the superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park since September 2014. 

"David is a proven leader with many years of diverse experience across the National Park Service," said Regional Director Frank Lands. "He has a solid reputation for relationship-building with park partners, local communities, Tribal governments, and elected officials. These skills will be especially important as he leads one of the most urban and complex sites in the National Park System. The park will greatly benefit from having someone with his management and partnership experience at its helm."  

In his new role, Smith will oversee 300 park employees and 82,000-acres of parklands within three counties, including 60 miles of coast north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, more than 130 miles of trails, and 1,200 historic structures. Smith will be responsible for all 37 of the sites that make up Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and Alcatraz Island. These sites constitute one of the world's largest national park units in an urban setting. The park hosts 17 million visitors each year and is considered a local treasure by the seven million people who call the Bay Area home.  

"I am thrilled to work with the staff and partners at Golden Gate to help visitors and families in the Bay Area and beyond enjoy one of America's greatest and most unique park sites," Smith said. "It is especially gratifying to return to the park after two decades and see the incredibly positive changes made by staff and partners. I’m anxious to get my feet on the ground in the park’s 50th anniversary year."  

At Joshua Tree, one of Southern California's premier desert parks, Smith led a team of 140 park staff serving 3.1 million visitors annually. Previously, Smith served as Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site superintendent in Topeka, Kansas and as a legislative staffer on the House Natural Resources Committee as part of the NPS Bevinetto Fellowship program in Washington DC. Smith has also worked as a district naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park, an interpretive specialist at the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and as a law enforcement park ranger at Cabrillo National Monument, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. He has worked at many parks and trails in Utah, California, and Arizona.  

Smith is a national winner of the Freeman Tilden Award for excellence in interpretation. He was featured in a 2013 TEDx talk on civic engagement and national parks called "Why Community Matters: The Case for Civic Engagement and Parks." 

He holds a Master of Science in Resource Interpretation from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, and a Bachelor of Arts in Forestry/Developmental Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Born in Oceanside, California, Smith grew up in northern San Diego. He and his husband, John, are recent empty nesters. One of their adult children is in college, and another is looking forward to entering the military. They enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and running on local trails. 

About NPS Interior Regions 8, 9, 10 & 12. The westernmost region of the National Park Service spans 106 degrees around the globe and includes more than 60 national park sites within the eight states of California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, portions of Arizona and Montana and the territories of Guam, American Samoa, as well as the Northern Mariana Islands.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 424 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Last updated: January 9, 2023