MUNISING - Gregg Bruff, chief of heritage education and cultural resources, will retire from Pictured Rocks National Lake-shore later this month, the latest in a series of longtime park staff members to retire in recent weeks.
Bruff's retirement is set for Feb. 22, after a 37-year career with the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. Bruff also served in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard from 1971-1978.
"Working in national parks and national forests my whole career has been my dream job," Bruff said.
Gregg Bruff discusses local lifesaving efforts in summer 2002 as part of the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program while he was a ranger at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Bruff will be retiring later this month after 37 years of federal employment, including at Pictured Rocks since 1988. (Journal file photo by John Pepin)
The park's division of heritage education and cultural resources at Pictured Rocks is responsible for a broad spectrum of programs and activities, including operation of all the park's visitor centers and the park's education outreach program along with the development of a wide variety of special programs, publications, wayside exhibits and other interpretive media and care of the lakeshore's cultural resources, including archeology, ethnography, historic buildings and an extensive museum collection.
The position at the park allowed Bruff to combine his interests of the park and a flare for artistic endeavor.
"One of the many things I've enjoyed is working directly with the visitors, but also working behind the scenes with the graphics and creative side," Bruff said.
After graduating from Southwest Missouri State University with a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology in 1974, Bruff began his park service career as an interpretive ranger at Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri. He later worked for the Mark Twain and Inyo national forests, before returning to the park service in 1979 as a district naturalist at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin. He came to Pictured Rocks as an interpretive specialist in 1988 and became the chief of the division in 1993.
"Gregg has been a great asset at the park," Pictured Rocks Superintendent Jim Northup said. "He is incredibly knowledgeable about the park's resources and history, has always had a great passion for sharing that knowledge with the public, and has made really important and lasting contributions to the park's overall interpretive program and in working with our partners over the course of the past 25 years."
Northup said he particularly applauds Bruff's "work in talking about the impacts of climate change on our parks and in designing the Alger Energy Saver's Program."
Bruff has also been active in the Munising area by helping to initiate the Munising Bay Arts Association, guided special events like the "Sails on the Bay" and visits by the sailing ship Madeline and the Lake Guardian, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes research vessel. He initiated the park's annual Fireside Chats series and the Science Cafe series and participated in the award-winning Life of Lake Superior Days, facilitated by Michigan State University Extension. Bruff also worked closely for several years with the Michigan Great Outdoor Culture Tour programming.
During his park service career, Bruff also made important contributions beyond his 25 years at Pictured Rocks. He worked with other park service employees to develop the first general management plan for Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, drafted management plans for Fort Knox II in Indiana and John Muir's boyhood home in Wisconsin and a viewshed management plan at Wilsons Creek National Battlefield in Missouri.
In 2005, he served as the acting director of the Arthur Carhart Wilderness Training Center in Missoula, Mont. Bruff contributed internationally, as well, having worked with the management options planning team for Al Balid, a 12th Century trading entrepot in Salalah, Oman.
In 1991, he was the winner of the Midwest Region's Freeman Tilden Award for excellence in interpretation. In 2001, Bruff was a member of the Lakeshore team recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award and the 2002 White House Closing the Circle Award. He is one of the few NPS rangers to ever score a perfect 300 on the firearms range at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center during basic law enforcement training.
In 2008, the Lakeshore was represented by an ornament painted by Bruff that accompanied other park service areas on a National Park themed White House Christmas tree.
Bruff said he plans to return to the park frequently during his retirement.
"You've been in that place 25 years and it just grows on you," Bruff said.
Bruff plans to remain in the Upper Peninsula where he will continue with his landscape art, writing, graphics, sailing, motorcycling, teaching and volunteering for community projects.
A "thank you and farewell" evening is being planned for 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in Munising. An RSVP is required. Contact park headquarters at 387-2607, ext. 201, for more information.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.