Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mary Killeen spent 30 years living and working in Washington, DC before an opportunity with the National Parks Service brought her to the Grand Canyon.
I had been a Peace Corp volunteer in Chile after graduating from the University of Minnesota. Part of my work in Washington was training future VISTA and Peace Corp volunteers. In 1998, my husband was offered a job at the Grand Canyon. It was sort of like jumping off a cliff. I had always lived internationally or in big cities.
From 1998 to 2000, Mary was Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Music Festival. After a stint back in DC, she returned to the Grand Canyon in 2005, where she works as the chief of planning and compliance for Grand Canyon National Park until her retirement in 2012.
My understanding of national parks really began with that job. We had everything happening at the Grand Canyon. It’s never a place that lacks the spotlight or major happenings. My office was at the forefront of meeting the park’s environmental goals.
During her decade working at the Grand Canyon, Mary was increasingly alarmed by the over-development of the park.
The development interests—the money that comes behind special interests that want to use our national parks and wilderness for purely financial reasons—are growing exponentially. The campaign cash is the reason there isn’t a balance. Thus far, and I’m sad to say this, the parks service isn’t winning the fight. There’s been too much money.
Mary hopes that by joining Park Rangers for Our Lands, she can help raise awareness and activism to protect at risk natural places. She doesn’t believe the stakes could be any higher.
We aren’t doing a good job preserving our environment. What’s at stake is everything that’s natural. The Grand Canyon has almost 4.5 million visitors every year. The visitor experience is eroding every year, and the impact on animals and the land is increasing. Our parks our places of refuge, places where you can communicate with nature. We need to preserve our relationship with nature because right now it’s tainted, contaminated and compromised. We have to fight for our national parks because nobody else will but the people who enjoy them.