Brown to leave Cape Lookout for Texas

By Ed Butler, Staff Writer

HARKERS ISLAND - Karren C. Brown, superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore, is leaving to become superintendent of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area in Fritch, Texas, on Jan. 27. The announcement was made by the National Park Service Thursday.

A 22-year veteran of the NPS, Ms. Brown came to Cape Lookout three and a half years ago in the midst of a controversy over an NPS plan to reduce the size of the wild mustang herd on the Shackleford Banks section of the park.

The controversy, which saw Ms. Brown's predecessor transferred, ended with a change in the horse management plan and a federal law guaranteeing that there will always be a herd of 100 or more ponies on Shackleford.

Ms. Brown was credited by many who worked on behalf of the Shackleford ponies with being a calming influence in a rancorous situation. But controversy returned to the park with Ms. Brown's decision last spring to implement a ban on personal watercraft close to the national park.

After the intercession of Third District Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., the plan, spurred by a federal court decision, was put on hold by Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton for further public discussion and study. It will be decided in the spring whether to restrict use of personal watercraft in park waters.

Ms. Brown said Thursday the personal watercraft controversy didn't influence her decision to leave Cape Lookout.

``This was a national issue that happened to hit us,'' she said, adding, ``I applied for the new job in July and interviewed in September. It will be up to the new superintendent to complete the final determination of the personal watercraft issue and start the process for creating an off-road vehicle plan on the seashore.''

Ms. Brown, reared in San Antonio, Texas, has immediate family in South Texas. She said she likes the area of her new assignment, describing herself as a ``desert rat.''

Located in north Texas, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is ``nothing but oil wells and cows. It's flat as a pancake and smells like gas and oil,'' said Ms. Brown. It is also the site of the Alibates flint quarries, where native Americans thousands of years ago gathered flint for arrowheads and tools.

In a news release announcing her departure, Ms. Brown said ``My time at Cape Lookout has been a blessing in my life. The people of down east have been incredibly kind and hospitable to me ... and I've made some lifelong friends.''

She said she'd like to manage two or three more parks before she retires in 10 or 15 years. ``I'm one of those National Park Service nomads who likes to move to new locations, see new sights, meet new people and take on new challenges every few years,'' Ms. Brown said.

Her successor will be chosen by the NPS Southeast Regional Office.