Helen Scully retires as NTS Program Specialist

by Partnership for the National Trails System
Adapted from emails with former and current NPS staff

Helen Scully

Helen Scully, National Trails System Program Specialist and National Recreation Trails Coordinator, has announced her retirement, which takes effect September 29, 2018.

Helen came into the National Park Service (NPS) to be an interpretive ranger from a background in theater and natural sciences. Somehow she found her way to the staff of the National Heritage Area Program, and when that program downsized she came into the National Trails System (NTS) office in 2000. For the next 18 years she served as Program Specialist, ably carrying out many functions that strengthened the NTS. Among Helen’s many accomplishments were:

  • Coordinating the usually complex annual package of National Recreation Trail (NRT) nominations.
  • Tracking applications and finalists in the Connect Trails to Parks Program.
  • Shepherding the development of Federal Trails Data Standards to maturity and acceptance.
  • Taking the minutes for many years at the Federal Interagency Council on Trails.

Steve Elkinton, who retired as the NTS Program Leader in 2014 and currently serves on the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) Board of Directors, said it was a “wonderful pleasure” to serve as her supervisor and friend. He said Helen avoided positions of visible leadership (she much preferred to serve quietly in the background), and her high standards of integrity, persistence, and attention to detail rendered invaluable service.

“I came to quickly appreciate Helen’s gifts, her perceptive observations, her distrust of unnecessary bureaucracy, her sense of theater and drama, her keen photographic eye,” Elkinton said. “She has left behind her as she departs NPS an invaluable legacy of accomplishment working on the National Trails System that will endure for years. May her well-earned retirement be joyful, inspiring, and full of healthy adventures as she returns to her native Hawaii.”

Bob Ratcliffe, Division Chief for the NPS Conservation, Recreation, and Community Programs, and Rita Hennessy, NTA Program Leader, are going through the process needed to hire a successor. Until a permanent replacement is on board, Hennessy will be the contact for NRT matters. In an email to the NRT Roundtable members, Helen said, “It has been a great privilege working with all of you. Your passion for trails and public service is inspiring.”

PNTS thanks Helen for her steadfast, conscientious work with the National Trails System and the Pathways Editorial Board. Aloha!

UPDATE: October 1, 2018 from Rita Hennessy, NTA Program Leader

Beginning today, Peter Bonsall will be working with me on National Trails through a part-time detail, primarily focusing on the National Recreation Trails program, and the Connect Trails to Parks fund source. Peter is no stranger to national trails. He currently serves as the GIS Specialist for Conservation and Outdoor Recreation (COR) division, and has worked on the development of the National Trails System interactive map, specialized maps for briefings, improving data for National Recreation Trails, and more. He is based out of Denver, CO.

BIO: Peter Bonsall is the GIS Specialist with the National Park Service Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Division.  He began as an intern in 2013, and became a permanent employee in 2015.  Through his tenure with the COR Division, he has supported and advanced the GIS capabilities for the National Trails System, Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, and the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program.  He spends much of his free time exploring local trails, so he is excited to assume the detail role as a program specialist for the National Trails, which will allow him to work with local partners in designating National Recreation Trails, and play a larger role in the National Trails System.  

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