JASPER — Mark Foust said he did his homework before accepting the position of superintendent of the Buffalo National River. He said he knew there were some issues that came with the job, so he wanted to look into them more closely. He said he is confident that they are not overwhelming because he believes everyone wants what is best for the continued health and beauty of the river.
Foust was invited to come and meet members of the Newton County Quorum Court and he was welcomed at the Oct. 1 meeting. He spoke briefly, noting he has been in Arkansas 2 1/2 months.
His last assignment was superintendent at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado for 4 1/2 years. Before that he was chief ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana for 8 years.
He said he has lived all over the country as his parents were employed by the National Park Service. He went to high school in Northern California.
According to the park service's announcement of Foust being named superintendent of the Buffalo National River, his father, Ray Foust, retired from the park service as the Superintendent of Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, California, and his grandfather was an archeologist at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
Foust graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1989, with a B.S. in resource science.
Foust told the JPs the park service and the counties in which the river/park is located share a lot of common interests, but that is not to say there won't be some differences in priorities.
"In the middle there's a big fat pie of stuff to do, so, we might as well focus on that, as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Justice Arlis Jones asked Foust if he was aware of the county's land use agreement with public landholders including the park service, U.S. Forest Service and Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Foust said he could not find a copy of it in his office, but he was made aware of it through the letter he received earlier from the quorum court when it extended the invitation to visit.
The agreement states that the quorum court is supposed to be notified of any changes in the land use by those landholders.
"That's the kind of thing we do. We look to the counties as well as the landowners and other federal agencies that own land, too, as a part of what we do. We look for ways we can work together, on roads for example."
Foust said he will be living in Harrison where the park headquarters is located. He said this is the first time his office is outside of the park. "It's taking me time to get used to having to drive a distance to get into the park."
Foust spent a few minutes talking with the Newton County Times after the quorum court meeting.
"As an employee of the park service I work within the laws and policies of the park service," he said. That is why he said he believes in having an open door policy and why listening and talking to people is important.
"It's my intent to continue to talk to all the county judges as frequently as possible, so there won't be any surprises," Foust said
He noted that the park's former deputy superintendent, Laura Miller, is now the superintendent of Hot Springs National Park. "Right now the deputy superintendent's position is not filled and we are evaluating the organization at the park and I want to make sure that we're effective and hitting all the objectives we need to hit, so we can best serve the public, visitors and local communities."
Foust said he has been up and down the river as much as he can since arriving here. Even though his headquarters are outside the park boundaries he emphasized that is not going to stop him from knowing the park as well as the other parks where he he has worked.
"To me, that's what it is all about, knowing the resource, knowing the park, the communities and the people. I just have to work a little harder."
Before even interviewing for the Buffalo National River superintendent's position, Foust said he did his homework studying up on all the issues of the park. That included the controversy over the concentrated animal feeding operation near the river at Mt. Judea. The C&H Hog Farm is located next to Big Creek that flows into the river about six miles away.
"The CAFO is a situation I did read about and learn more and more about. It is important to the county and to the park. I am looking at all sides," he said.