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Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County native and resident Mark Rich has retired after more than 35 years of full time service with the National Park Service and Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mark has had a “Rich” career with the National Park Service while keeping his home base right here at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mark grew up near Mammoth Cave in Edmonson County. After attending Western Kentucky University, he began his career at Mammoth Cave National Park in the early 1980’s. After becoming a permanent employee, he has served in multiple roles throughout his career. He originally was hired as a Cave Guide and interpreted the history while guiding thousands of park visitors through the longest cave in the world. He later moved into fee collection and became the campground ranger, according to a statement released from MCNP.
In the late 1990’s, Mark was promoted into the Park Safety Officer position, a role he has kept for 20 years. For the past ten years, Mark also served as the park’s Concessions Management Specialist, with oversight over the lodging, food and beverage, retail, and bus transportation services provided by the park concessioner. Finally, Mark served as the Environmental Manager for the park. He oversaw all environmental programs, including a large park recycling program.
The released statement also said "Throughout his career, Mark has contributed to the National Park Service in many ways. He has assisted national parks across the country with concessions training, safety reviews, environmental audits, and emergency response teams. Mark is considered a technical expert and a recognized leader for his knowledge and experience in these areas. Recently, Mark was assigned to assist with emergency response for over three weeks to national parks in the Caribbean that were impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria."
Closer to home, Mark has served as park liaison to the Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce. Mark has been active with the Chamber for 20 years, attending board meetings and even a stint as Chair. He was presented Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce's "Friend of Edmonson County" Award last year, for Rich's contribution to the promotion of tourism and economic development of Edmonson County.
"Some of the kids today at Kyrock's local business panel presentation asked me what was the favorite part of my job," Rich said to the Edmonson Voice. "There were so many things, it was hard to pick just one. All the travel, I went to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, but it was also all the great people from all over. I worked with some really great people, too."
Rich also said he was very fortunate enough to be able to serve with others on some great management teams and help others in times of tragedies. He also said not many get to enjoy national parks like The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, while getting paid.
He resides in Edmonson County with his wife, Renee.
"All in all, it's been a lot of fun," he said. "Working in the national park system is not like working in the city. You've got all the beauty, the wildlife, just so much."
When asked what he planned on doing in retirement, he replied, "I want to do more gardening, play more golf, do some traveling, but mainly just whatever Renee tells me to."