Manager John Miele to retire from Crater Lake
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
November 27, 2001
By LEE JUILLERAT
CRATER LAKE — John Miele hasn’t always been the most popular person at Crater Lake National Park.
Back in the 1990s, when most of his supervisors and the park staff advocated the demolition and removal of Crater Lake Lodge, Miele thought it should be rebuilt in the unfulfilled vision of its creators. It was.
During his 16 years as the park’s management assistant, Miele has been critical of what most first-time visitors see when they reach Rim Village — the lake obscured by a parking lot.
“A visitor should have a sense of amazement, a sense of awe,” believes Miele.
That sense of awe has never been diminished for Miele, who will retire after 36 years of government service, including 34 years with the National Park Service, on Friday.
“I am ready for a change,” says Miele, 61. “I am ready to get away from the harsh winter environment.”
He won’t get far away. Miele and his wife, Kasorn, live in Central Point.
After taking the Crater Lake assignment 16 years ago, he consciously decided to maintain two residences, one near Medford, one at the park, so that his family — his first wife, Kay, and their four children, Vincent, Victor, Ralph and Joy — could enjoy the social and extracurricular advantages of city life.
Miele will likely be making frequent visits as a consultant for unfinished park business, including the implementation of a visitor service plan that’s reshaping the look at Rim Village.
“This is going to provide visitors with a much more natural experience,” says Miele of eventual plans to move the parking lot away from the rim.
He’s also expected to remain highly involved in planning for the park’s centennial celebration in 2002 and transition to a new concessionaire next spring.
“Without a doubt,” Miele believes the new contract will provide benefits for the park and its visitors beyond the terms of an agreement signed in 1967 that continued through this past summer. The announcement of a new concessionaire is expected in mid-December.
Working and living at Crater Lake, where the average seasonal snowfall is nearly 550 inches, has provided Miele with a unique perspective of the park. There have been negatives — “The living conditions can be kind of harsh. It’s certainly not conducive to a family life” — yet there are pluses.
“During the summer the family lived here. It gave them an appreciation of the park, an appreciation of one of the natural wonders of the world.”
Miele transferred to Crater Lake from Oregon Caves National Monument, where he was superintendent for 11 years. Those two long assignments came after he and his family bounced around the nation, with stays at Fort Clatsop on the Oregon Coast and Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River along with the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, two stints in Washington, D.C., and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, where he started his Park Service career in 1963 as a historian.
He experienced history in the mid-1960s, when he spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand and another year with the Agency for International Development in Laos.
“It was right in the middle of it,” says Miele, referring to the Vietnam War that spread throughout Southeast Asia. His Laos home was only 15 to 20 miles from the front lines and, “Every evening when I went to sleep I listened to the artillery going ‘Boom, Boom, Boom.’ ”
After Laos he attended the University of Delaware, where he earned a master’s in American history and met Kay. They married in 1968, the year he graduated and resumed his Park Service career.
Among the highlights of his career was helping to organize the Second World Conference on National Parks, held at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where 500 participants from 90 counties established world heritage sites.
For the past 16 years, Miele’s focus has been on Crater Lake.
While living at the park can be arduous, he’s spent many winter nights cross country skiing and taken time during warmer weather to visit the lodge — “I just love to go up and see all the people have a wonderful time.”
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Regional Editor Lee Juillerat covers Lake, Siskiyou, Modoc and northern Klamath counties. He can be reached at 885-4421, (800) 275-0982, or by e-mail at email@example.com.