MUNISING - Two veteran staff members, known widely throughout the local community, have recently retired from the National Park Service at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore after lengthy careers.
Chris Case, facility manager at Pictured Rocks, retired after 38 years with the National Park Service, while David Kronk -known to schoolchildren in the Munising area as "Ranger Dave"- retired from Pictured Rocks after a career spanning more than 31 years.
"What an extraordinary career opportunity I have had," Case said. "To love what I do and work with an organization of dedicated and driven individuals, so passionate about taking care of the most special places in the country, has been incredibly meaningful to me."
Case began his Park Service career as a volunteer intern at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin.
Case arrived at Pictured Rocks in 1989, where he has served as the facility manager for 23 years. Park officials said that over the course of his career, Case had demonstrated his multidiscipline perspective gained working as an interpreter, resource and visitor protection ranger and through the ranks in the maintenance division.
Pictured Rocks Superintendent Jim Northup said Case managed numerous complex projects and his vision is represented by the amazing improvements and innovative solutions seen in facilities throughout the park.
"However, no part of Chris' career will leave a greater legacy than his work in developing sustainable practices and in environmental leadership," Northup said.
For over 20 years, Case led efforts at Pictured Rocks and throughout the National Park Service and beyond in the application of green technologies including the use of bio-fluids, solar energy, employee-friendly low hazard products, and green procurement.
As a result of this work, Case received the Director's Award for Excellence in Natural Resources Stewardship through Maintenance in 2001, led the team that received the Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award in 2001 and the White House Closing the Circle Award in 2002, and received the individual Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award in 2005.
Since then, he has taught over 60 classes and webinars on environmental leadership to over 2,300 individuals, many of whom have implemented what they have learned at their own parks, refuges or places of business.
In recognition of his collective achievements and contributions to the mission of the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior, Case was recently awarded the Superior Service Award of the Department of the Interior.
Kronk has been recognized nationally as an outstanding environmental educator. His work at Pictured Rocks dates back to the summer of 1977, when he first worked at Pictured Rocks as a seasonal park aide, making $3.96 an hour.
During the course of his federal career, Kronk worked at Pictured Rocks and Everglades National Park in Florida and briefly for the U.S. Corp of Engineers in Ohio. Early in his career, he also worked for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Greenwood Nature Center in Marquette County and as a public school teacher in Detroit and downstate Fowlerville. He has served as Pictured Rocks Outreach Education Ranger since May 1992.
"Dave was excellent at working with kids and always remained passionate about the importance of environmental education, getting kids outside to enjoy nature, and encouraging active stewardship of our precious natural and cultural resources," Northup said. "Several students that Dave worked with over the years have gone on to careers in the conservation field, including with the National Park Service. He has been a real fixture in the park."
Pictured Rocks Chief of Heritage Education Gregg Bruff said Kronk was a specialist in developing curriculum based environmental education programs and worked primarily with the four major school systems in Alger County - Munising, Grand Marais, Superior Central and Au Train-Onota.
He also ran the park's after school Junior Ranger program, a summer science camp, teacher workshops, facilitated visits from multi-cultural groups and other special programs, and presented a wide variety of programs to the public. He recently helped develop an environmental education program in Costa Rica.
"Dave has touched a lot of lives over the course of his career," Bruff said.
Since returning to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 1992, Kronk has worked with area teachers to develop a quality curriculum, meeting the needs of area educators and matching the standards for excellence from the North American Association for Environmental Education.
Kronk said he is very proud of the summer science day camp and after school Junior Ranger programs he pioneered.
"I want to thank all the teachers and students for their participation in the programs over the years," Kronk said. "What a great group of people. I will miss working with you very much, but it is time for me to move on to new challenges."
Kronk will be teaching part time at Northern Michigan University. He also hopes to complete work on a major motion picture screenplay about the life of an early American conservation hero and friend of John Muir, Enos Mills.
With bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State University, Kronk was often recognized for his work. He was the winner of the National Park Service's prestigious Freeman Tilden Award, was recognized by the National Association of Interpretation and received several performance awards over the course of his career.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.