Frank Dean, who served as General Superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) since 2009, is leaving the National Park Service to join the Yosemite Conservancy as its new President and CEO.
“Frank Dean came to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area after the sudden death of our much-loved superintendent, Brian O’Neill,” recalls Becky Evans, longtime GGNRA activist. “O’Neill had been deeply involved in the communities surrounding the park for more than 25 years. It was a hard position to inherit, but over his tenure Frank has succeeded in improving the park in many ways.”
Frank’s first job was to bring together his deeply-saddened staff, which he did most effectively. Many projects in the park were left partly-finished upon O’Neill’s death, and had relied on his community connections. Frank approached this unfinished business with a strong background and deep knowledge base that enabled him to bring the projects to a successful conclusion.
“This park, embedded in an urban area where so many people care vociferously about its attributes, is one of the most complex to administer in the national park system,” said GGNRA advocate Amy Meyer. “Frank’s stalwart support of national park principles and his personal warmth won the admiration and affection of park advocates.”
A park superintendent is frequently under the radar except to those working on specific issues — which in an urban area can be many and diverse. Frank worked hand-in-hand with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio Trust to conserve and improve the GGNRA. Among his numerous accomplishments as Superintendent of the GGNRA, he:
- Fostered an innovative partnership with the Golden Gate Bridge District and Parks Conservancy to provide modern visitor facilities at the iconic bridge;
- Initiated a new partnership to protect the Mt. Tamalpais ecosystem;
- Established a major capital campaign to preserve facilities on Alcatraz;
- Worked out a win-win arrangement with the Veterans Administration Medical Center under which their temporary need for extended parking as they undergo construction is helping pay for restoration and eventual repurposing of the octagon house at Lands End.
- Continued the Ocean Beach project begun by his predecessor in coordination with the urban planning nonprofit SPUR and seven agencies. The project is designed to beautify the beach and adjacent areas and help the southern part, in particular, become more resistant to the effects of climate change.
- Defended the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act, which helped lead to the defeat of the George Lucas Museum proposed to be erected adjacent to the Presidio’s Crissy Field.
- Participated effectively in a multi-agency effort to deal with the difficult traffic, parking, and natural resource problems at Muir Woods, a project now approaching resolution.
Prior to serving at GGNRA, Frank was superintendent of Saratoga National Historical Park and assistant superintendent at Point Reyes National Seashore. His position at the Yosemite Conservancy marks a return to his roots; a trip to Yosemite as a college student triggered Frank’s passion for the outdoors and conservation, and inspired a career working in our national parks.
Frank went on to serve in Yosemite as a park ranger, and from 1990 to 1995 was management assistant to the superintendent and the primary National Park Service contact on Yosemite Conservancy projects. Working with the Conservancy, he helped establish project review guidelines for work with the National Park Service (NPS), and he led the NPS team on the dramatic improvements and restoration of Glacier Point overlook. Frank also was a park ranger in Sequoia and Grand Canyon national parks.
Frank will be missed, but we look forward to seeing more of his good work in action at Yosemite!
— Becky Evans