The temporary boss at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area took on her duties just as the park was about to close for health reasons due to the pandemic.

“We’ve dealt with natural disasters and government shutdowns,” said Acting Superintendent Ann Honious, “but nothing that is health-related and pandemic. And that is a different response.”

Ann Honious. (Special)

Honious came to Georgia from the nation’s capital, where she serves in her permanent posting as the deputy superintendent at National Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C. Her 120-day temporary posting began in mid-April and ends in mid-August.

She’s filling in temporarily for the superintendent’s position. After the position is advertised a permanent superintendent will be chosen. Until then, acting superintendents fill the role on temporary assignments.

Longtime Superintendent Bill Cox retired on Jan. 3 after a 40-year federal career. He had actively recruited by the National Park Service to serve as the superintendent for the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in 2013, the National Park Service reported.

Cox set up partnership projects and helped develop the Friends Group – the Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy – to where it now provides philanthropic support to the park. He increased awareness for the Chattahoochee River NRA among local cities and organization. And Cox helped educate the community on watershed management’s importance and the economic benefits the park brings.

The biggest challenge Honious has faced in her short tenure has been the pandemic and park operations with COVID-19, “and developing an adaptive recovery to increase access for visitors in the park, keeping park visitors and employees safe.”

None of the Chattahoochee River NRA’s employees were furloughed due to the coronavirus, she said. Around 30 people work for the park, with numbers fluctuating because seasonal maintenance employees come in during the summer.

“Our law enforcement staff and maintenance staff are essential staff and have been working throughout the pandemic,” she said.

Other staff either teleworked from home or are on-site.

Otherwise it’s been business as usual for the staff as they track their budget, develop projects and otherwise handle resource management. But now they’ve added examining specific jobs to determine if modifications are needed as park access increases and all employees return to working on site.

Getting to know the Chattahoochee River NRA was her first priority. She said a park tour and participating in a ride-along with law enforcement officers on river patrol gave her insight into those aspects of park operations.

Honious has been working with the park’s partners, including communities adjacent to it, the friends group and other partners whose relationships she’s trying to maintain.

“I bring my skills and experience from other parks and am able to apply them to the National Recreation Area,” she said.

She started working with the National Park Service as a historian.

“I’ve always liked history. And I found that the park service is a great way to share the history of America, and the great resources that we have like national parks,” Honious said.

People immediately think of parks like the Grand Canyon when you mention the National Park Service. But the Chattahoochee River is also a national park, Honious said, and is a place where you can get out to enjoy the country and its natural resources.

She worked in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers, at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. She also has worked at the St. Louis Gateway Arch National Park. At National Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C., she helps manage more than 8,000 acres and 90 parks, including the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, Anacostia Park, Frederick Douglass Park and Civil War Defenses of Washington.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.