New Superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park Units

The National Park Service (NPS) just shared the exciting news that Penelope “Penny” Del Bene has been appointed as the new superintendent of the Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. She begins her new role starting April 7. For four months in 2023, Del Bene had the opportunity to serve as the acting superintendent for these parks.

Mark Foust, the NPS South Atlantic-Gulf regional director, expressed his enthusiasm for Penny’s permanent appointment. He highlighted her proven ability to lead with insight, foster meaningful partnerships, and enhance community engagement and public involvement,. No doubt, all of those skills are expected to benefit her new role, the park, and its diverse stakeholders greatly.

Del Bene’s Rich Experience & National Park Service Background

Previously, Del Bene made significant strides as the superintendent of Biscayne National Park in South Florida, starting in 2020. She successfully led efforts to repair over six million dollars in infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Under her guidance, the park saw improvements in visitor experiences at key camping and day-use areas, expanded educational visitor access, and advanced coral reef preservation through comprehensive programs.

A key aspect of Del Bene’s approach has been her collaborative work with Indigenous communities. She has been committed to building and sustaining relationships with local Tribes. She has also worked alongside communities, stakeholders, partners, friends’ groups, and the public, striking a balance between preserving cultural and natural resources and addressing operational needs such as visitor use, access, and infrastructure development.

Reflecting on her permanent role, Del Bene shared her honor of becoming a part of the Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument team. Her acting superintendent role allowed her to witness first-hand the passion and dedication of the park employees, stakeholders, and community members—a group she is eager to collaborate with on various social, natural, and cultural resource challenges.

Bringing nineteen years of federal service to her new role, Del Bene has a rich background that includes positions as an archeologist, cultural resource specialist, and tribal liaison across various national parks and other federal agencies.

Superintendent’s Strong Credentials

With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Oregon and a Master of Arts in the same field from California State University, Northridge, Del Bene’s educational background complements her extensive professional experience. A lifelong affinity for the ocean and days spent at the beach have always made her feel at home near the water. She, along with her husband, Terry, and their two rescue dogs—both abandoned in national parks—are looking forward to becoming part of the St. John community.

Disclaimer: This above news story is based on a press release from the National Park Service, which was issued on March 8, 2024. You can read the original release here.

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