Bush selects Bomar to head national parks

WASHINGTON — President Bush has chosen a British-born career Park Service official to replace National Park Service director Fran Mainella, who announced this summer that she would step down.

Bush's nominee, Mary A. Bomar of Philadelphia, has served as the Park Service's Northeast regional director since 2005. She previously helped manage several major revitalization projects that led to surges in park attendance.

Mainella announced her resignation in July, citing family concerns. Bomar's nomination needs Senate confirmation.

Park advocates, some of whom blasted Mainella for bending to commercial interests, praised Bush for choosing a nominee from within the agency.

"She (Bomar) has been a very good regional director in terms of supporting park needs and park resources, and I think that gives us reason to believe she would be quite an improvement," said Bill Wade, executive council chairman of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Bomar was born and raised in England and became a U.S. citizen in 1977. She has worked in numerous parks, serving as acting superintendent at Rocky Mountain National Park and as the first superintendent at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, among other jobs.

Critics have battered the Bush administration over its handling of the national parks. In recent months, however, the agency has retreated from some of its most controversial plans.

Officials this summer rejected a management proposal that critics said would have expanded the use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on federal land.

Instead, Mainella last week signed a policy emphasizing that conservation is the parks' first responsibility.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Bomar's passion for the national parks "mirrors that of the American people."

Bomar headed Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia from 2003 to 2005, helping oversee the launch of several new exhibits and a $5.2 million rehabilitation project. The new construction boosted park visitation by 35 percent.

Bomar takes over the Park Service as the agency struggles with a years-long backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation projects.