Grand Canyon Ranger Lisa Hendy Receives National Park Service’s Top Honor

Saturday, November 05 2011 15:31   People of the West

Lisa Hendy was driving through Wyoming in a blizzard when she received the news that she had just been awarded the National Park Service's (NPS) 2011 Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award for excellence, in effect dubbing her as the best ranger in the nation.

"I had to pull over when my supervisor told me," she told Travel & History Magazine. "Afterwards, I drove for a while trying to absorb the news and realized I was 11 miles past my turn off. It was overwhelming."

hendy_granariesAccording to the award nomination submitted by Grand Canyon National Park's Chief Ranger Bill Wright, Supervisory Park Ranger Hendy has earned it.

"Ranger Hendy is one of those rangers that can be sent to any call.... (She) is one of that rare breed...that simply excel at every aspect of rangering," he said.

Hendy was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. and attended Auburn University. Over the years, she has worked in Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Arches and Yellowstone National Parks. In 2004, she accepted a position as a law enforcement ranger in Grand Canyon National Park's Canyon District where she still works today.

"I was initially a criminal justice major at Auburn University, and I came to the realization I didn't want to be stuck in a city or a car all the time," she told "I had a good professor who suggested I look into the land management agencies. I got an internship in Yosemite (National Park), and when I got a look at what all the NPS offered for emergency services beyond just law enforcement I was sold."

On any given day Hendy might be found rappelling over the edge to stabilize a patient, working with the park's Special Response Team to do a building sweep, responding with the structural fire engine to a burning RV, providing advanced life support care as a paramedic, being short-hauled into a victim on the river, or patrolling the backcountry - checking permits, stirring toilets, or  assessing archeological sites.

hendy0093At the awards ceremony held in Washington, D.C., Hendy explained in her acceptance speech that it took many rangers to help train and shape her to help others in a variety of ways.

"I estimate that it has taken at least 50 rangers to build the ranger you have standing before you today," she said. "That means for every ranger like me, there are at least 50 of them out there."

It was clear that Hendy felt honored and privileged to have worked with each and every one of them.

The Yount Award is named after the nation's first park ranger (hired in Yellowstone National Park in 1880) and is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a park ranger today.

According to NPS Director Jon Jarvis, "Each year, we ask those rangers who tackle the toughest assignments, protecting park resources and the nearly 300 million people who visit our national parks annually, to single out one among them that epitomizes the ranger ethic. We give that person the Harry Yount Award."

Asked to share with our readers her favorite places in Grand Canyon, Hendy gracefully declined.

"You don't really think I'd divulge that do you?" she said with a smile.

However, she did have some advice for those who want to go exploring the Grand Canyon.

"I think if folks want to see the best of Grand Canyon, they need to get some experience hiking here, and then branch out beyond the Corridor of the Bright Angel and the Kaibab," she said. "You cannot do that lightly - this place will eat you alive."

She's worked in five National Parks in the backcountry for 18 years and no place has pushed her harder that the Grand Canyon.

"But if you have some humility and you take the time to learn how to hike here, there are unimaginably beautiful places outside the beaten path," she added.


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