The former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, who recently resigned after being cleared of allegations she created a hostile workplace, is taking a new job in San Francisco.
Christine Lehnertz oversaw Golden Gate National Recreation area before taking over at the Grand Canyon less than three years ago. She’s returning to the Bay Area next month as president and chief executive of a nonprofit group that supports Golden Gate.
"To have Chris return, it feels like a homecoming for all of us, and we couldn’t be happier or more confident in her leadership skills and passion for the park’s next chapter," said Greg Moore, who Lehnertz will replace at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in mid-May.
At the Grand Canyon, Lehnertz had been tasked with overturning a culture of sexual harassment that included male employees in the now-defunct river district preying on female colleagues. She said she was proud of employees’ progress in becoming more respectful and inclusive, and of clearing a backlog of complaints. In an interview Tuesday, she said she didn’t accomplish everything she wanted to and understood the tenure of park superintendents is limited.
Lehnertz said her career with the Park Service was enriching and inspiring, and her new role will allow her to work in a similar field.
"This is a terrific opportunity to continue to promote the mission of public lands, of national parks and of getting people into these lands that are set aside for them," she said.
Her departure from Grand Canyon leaves one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations without a permanent leader during its centennial year. Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum, followed by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Superintendent Woody Smeck, will fill the role temporarily.
The Grand Canyon is the second-busiest national park in the country, drawing nearly 6.4 million visitors in 2018, behind Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area reclaimed the top spot in 2018 among the 418 National Park Service units with more than 15.2 million visitors. The recreation area includes the bridge itself, former military posts, Alcatraz, and beaches and trails on 125 square miles (323 square kilometers).
The nonprofit that Lehnertz will lead has provided $500 million to the recreation area. Moore said the money has helped maintain old military posts, update buildings at Alcatraz to better withstand earthquakes, and repair roofs, among other things.