GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — It’s been a long four decades, but Chuck Wahler is ready to bid farewell to the National Park Service.
For awhile, anyway.
During his forty-year career with the National Park Service (NPS), Wahler has called the Grand Canyon home twice. He began working at the park in May 1977 as an intern for the interpretation department. He left the following year, taking positions as assistant chief and chief of interpretation at parks in Missouri, New Jersey and Wyoming.
In 1990, Wahler returned to the Grand Canyon as deputy chief of interpretation. He also conducted VIP tours of the park for visitors like former president Gerald Ford and journalist Walter Cronkite. In his many roles for the NPS, Wahler served as federal mediator and facilitator with the CORE PLUS program, as well as a structural firefighter and officer. He joined the Albright Training Center staff in 2010, serving as training instructor primarily for the Fundamentals program, which provides orientation training to new, permanent NPS employees who have been with the organization for less than two years.
According to his coworkers, Wahler’s wealth of knowledge about the National Park Service, along with his sense of humor, made him an exceptional trainer. Sharon Cawley, a fellow trainer who has worked with Wahler for the last five years, said he will be sorely missed.
“Chuck always said his job was to ‘plant seedlings’ and make a difference to the organization he cared so deeply about,” Cawley said. “He has done just that.”
The Grand Canyon has changed a lot over the course of his career, something Wahler notices each time he travels around the park. The increase in visitors and the infrastructure created and modified to support them has been incredible, he said.
“When I started here, visitation was around two million per year,” wahler said. “When I came back, it was approaching four million, and now it’s up to six million.”
The park has changed to accommodate the growing crowds, he explained, from the new Visitor’s Center near Mather Point to new roads being built for an ever-increasing number of tour busses, passenger vans and vehicles of every shape and size.
Even though Wahler will no longer be working full-time at Albright Training Center, he won’t be leaving the area. He and his wife, Sally, who recently retired from Xanterra human resources, have been active members of the Grand Canyon community and plan to remain so. Both of their children are alumni of the Grand Canyon School District and Wahler himself served on the school board for 18 years.
The allure of the national parks is seemingly hereditary — Wahler’s son, Jacob, is currently a park ranger for Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. His daughter, Erin, is an elementary teacher in Colorado, but also once served as a seasonal park ranger at Grand Canyon.
Wahler and his wife plan to enjoy retired life in Flagstaff after his last official day Dec. 31. They have a passion for international travel and plan on continuing. The couple recently returned from a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. His longtime dedication to the Grand Canyon and NPS is still a part of Wahler’s life — he will continue in his role as a mediator at Albright on a part-time basis. He also plans to work with the Rhodes Scholar program at Northern Arizona University.
The Albright Training Center will celebrate Wahler’s retirement Dec. 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Karracker Lounge in Building D. Refreshments will be served.