Southern Utah News Articles
Split the block, build the castle
“It’s the little things that I like about the National Parks experience,” commented Fred Armstrong, the new Pipe Spring Monument Superintendent and 35-year career National Park Service (NPS) employee, about what he enjoys most about his job. “It’s when a young child first sees a salamander near the pond at the monument, they are so excited! Some of the children who visit haven’t been exposed to many things in nature. It’s thrilling to witness something like that. “
Armstrong took the Pipe Spring superintendent position on April 17, 2016, but he already knew the ropes! He had been serving as interim superintendent two months prior to that. Before his Pipe Spring appointment, he had been the Chief of Resource Management and Research at Zion National Park. Armstrong understands and enjoys working in southern Utah! Pipe Spring National Monument was created by President Warren Harding in May 31, 1923.
The California native from Torrence has one older sister. “I spent my growing up years in California, but since we had extended family in the Dakotas and Montana, we vacationed to those destinations, often traveling through the national parks.”
As for schooling, Armstrong received his bachelors degree from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo in Natural Resources. “After that, I started working at the Petrified National Forest as a fee collector. It was definitely an entry level job, and the work solidified my desire to work for the National Park Service! That job allowed me the opportunity to work with visitors, park staff and interpretive park rangers, and it gave me a real feel for what a career in this area would be about.”
Fred and his wife, Lori, have one grown son, Forrest, who has also worked for the National Park Service for seven seasons in various locations.
During Armstrong’s long career with the Park Service, he has worked in numerous capacities in multiple parks throughout the service, including Guadalupe Mountains National Park (TX), Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (ND), Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (MT-WY), Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM), Golden Gate National Recreation Area (CA), Oregon Caves National Monument (OR), and Petrified Forest National Park (AZ). These assignments allowed him to gain expertise in disciplines including natural and cultural resource management, interpretation, law enforcement, fee collection, maintenance and park administration.
“I spent 11 years as park interpreter, as well as law enforcement and EMT. Those positions offered me a wider vision into the park experience. I also worked in the Guadalupe Mountains as the Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources.”
After years of serving in different Park Service positions, what would he say got him committed to the career?
“The more time I spent in the various disciplines, the more involved and certainly more interested I became,” said Armstrong. “With the wide range of positions I had held, I obtained a certain amount of skill to help people.”
“Fred brings to this position more than three decades of knowledge and experience in all aspects of park operations,” said Sue Masica, NPS Intermountain Region Director, upon his appointment. “His skills in building partnerships and tribal relationships will serve him well in his new position.”
Armstrong is thrilled with his new position, and readily able to define why Pipe Spring is special!
Armstrong praised former park superintendent John Hiscock for his forthrightness in building and improving relationships with their Navajo counterparts, as well as building the interpretive museum, which includes both Native American and pioneer heritage. “He (Hiscock) made tremendous strides in developing better relationships with the tribe.”
“The thing that’s wonderful about Pipe Spring is it has an ability to present the story on the landscape,” said Armstrong.” Even though we’re on a later time, the story is about people connecting with the land.”
Armstrong mentioned water as being another important aspect of the monument through the years, the lifeblood of anything that has ever happened in these parts in the past and in the future! “The Kaibab Paiute Tribe, cattlemen, and monument staff, we all have a stewardship role concerning water...the interests are all inter-related.”
Guaranteeing that primary resource of water is the challenge, according to Armstrong. “That may involve working with the tribe, local landowners, and the state, for protection of ground water.”
Armstrong feels great about those prospects, and hopes to grow and develop staff who feel the same way.
But why would you stop at Pipe Spring when there are so many natural sights and tourist magnets around?
“The regular tourist driving by would not recognize what a wonderful and historic place this is,” said Armstrong. “The Kaibab Paiute tribe has so much history here, as well as the rich history that the pioneers had here as well.”
The Kaibab Paiute have called this place home for many years. As for the pioneers, they split the blocks to build the castle...talk about strength, stamina, perseverance and dedication to their faith! The rocks had to be cut from the nearby hills, and then adjusted and cut so they fit the building plans!
Smart engineering from everyone involved!
The current Pipe Spring staff hopes to expand the interpretive programs there, including special hikes with tribal members. They also would like to focus on presenting traditional skills to the public.
“The best thing I could say or that any of my staff can do,” said Armstrong, “is inspire visitors to understand that these places have been preserved to inspire, educate and motivate them, and then they in turn can hand that inspiration down to the next generation!”