To say that Rob Arnberger’s childhood was a bit unconventional is almost an understatement. He was born in what was then the clinic in Grand Canyon, now offices for the Grand Canyon Association, while his father, a seasonal, fought a fire. After his father got permanent status, the family moved to Casa Grande. He lived in Santa Fe twice after that with stops in between at Gila Pueblo in Globe, Arizona, and Roanoke, Virginia, where his dad was the chief naturalist for the Blue Ridge Parkway.He graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, where his father was studying for an advanced degree at Princeton. He got his degree at the University of New Mexico.
Like many of his generation, Rob began his National Park Service (NPS) career as a seasonal park technician at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and got permanent status at Tumacacori National Historical Park. In 1971, he moved to Fort Union as the chief ranger/historian. His next assignment took him to Buffalo National River as a district ranger. He then moved into the following leadership positions: superintendent of Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, chief ranger at Channel Islands National Park (NP), superintendent at Saguaro, deputy superintendent at Everglades NP, and superintendent at Big Bend NP. In 1994, he was appointed superintendent of Grand Canyon NP. He retired in 2003 after serving as the regional director of the Service’s Alaska Region.
While at Grand Canyon NP, Rob faced down Arizona’s governor who arrived at the park with a convoy of National Guard troops and threatened to use those troops to open the park and operate it during one of the periodic government shutdowns when the Congress failed to pass a budget or a continuing resolution by the first day of October. The event was high comedy on television but tense at the scene.
Rob received the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award in recognition “of his vision, dynamic leadership and for his support of park resources and National Park Service employees.” He was also a member of the Service’s National Leadership Council and a graduate of the Department’s SES program.
Rob has represented the NPS internationally with assignments in India, Mexico, Japan, Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, Republic of Congo, Republic of Gabon, Republic of Georgia, and Russia involving tourism and heritage stewardship programs. Due to his Spanish language skills, he was part of an Interior department team that traveled to Chile to study legislation proposed by the government to create a new agency to manage that country’s superlative protected area system.
Rob’s connection to the NPS remains strong. He served on the executive council of what is now called the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. He served as a board member and chair of the board for the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation, a 501 c (3) that sought to support the mission of this national park. Additionally, he served on the Grand Canyon Heritage Coalition, another 501 c (3) working on behalf of the NPS regards to Colorado River issues. His youngest son is a third generation NPSer as a law enforcement supervisor at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.