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Walter T. Cox Award

The Walter T. Cox Award was awarded to Kerri Cahill, Ph.D., Branch Chief of the National Park Service’s Denver Service Center Planning Division, for sustained achievement in public service providing leadership in administration of public lands and for policy formation affecting our natural and cultural resources.

The Award is so named in appreciation of Dr. Cox's distinguished career in education and public service, especially his tenure as President of Clemson University and as the Director of the Santee-Cooper Authority.

The Award recognizes sustained achievement in public service on the firing line, where the public interest meets the private interest in public policy formulation and administration; distinguished leadership and support of innovation in conflict resolution of policy initiatives that enhance the quality of life; personal achievements during a career or in a specific episode that provides inspiration and leadership to others in serving the above purposes.

About Kerri Cahill, Ph.D. 

Dr. Kerri Cahill

Kerri Cahill began her National Park Service career in 2003 and is currently a Branch Chief in the Denver Service Center Planning Division. The Denver Service Center is a central office that provides agency wide technical and project management support. During her almost 18 years with the National Park Service, Kerri has been able to work on a diverse array of projects in support of parks, regions, national programs, interagency initiatives and international collaborations. It’s been an incredibly rewarding and dynamic career. 

Kerri began her work with the National Park Service after completing her Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Forestry, specializing in recreation management. Prior to that time, Kerri had entered the planning field working for a county environmental management department in Florida on environmental species protection. She was inspired by planning as a forum for conversation to welcome a wide range of voices, along with integrating science and policy. Kerri received her master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University and began work in the park planning department of Florida State Parks. She later employed her expertise in the private sector supporting park planning projects as a consultant for cities and counties. This range of planning experiences for resources and parks provided the drive to return to school for her Ph.D., with the eventual goal of working for the National Park Service.

Over the almost 18 years that Kerri has been with the National Park Service, she has been honored to work with many of the highly talented and committed staff across the agency. Kerri has appreciated the collaboration and expertise of her colleagues at the Denver Service Center Planning Division. She is particularly proud of the opportunity to have helped build an amazing technical team in the fields of visitor use management and socioeconomics. Although there are many experts and practitioners doing this important work in the agency, the centralized team at the Denver Service Center provides technical expertise and leadership to the ever-evolving needs related to providing for and managing use in parks and other land management agencies.  

Kerri also helped build the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council from its inception in 2011. The formation of a council was spearheaded by staff that were passionate about the discipline and wanted to work across agency lines to share lessons learned and collaborate on best practices. Kerri chairs the council, which coordinates across six federal agencies to provide consistent guidance and tools for visitor use management. The council has produced several guidebooks on best practices and are currently in the process of developing related training. This guidance has been integrated into many projects, agency policy and is now being adapted for use in other local, state and federal agencies in the United States and around the world.  

In addition to these accomplishments, Kerri co-led an NPS working group on visitor use management that developed tools and a central portal of resources for the agency. She also helped develop national planning guidelines for the National Park Service related to the topics of visitor use management and visitor capacity. She has authored several publications on these topics. Kerri has also collaborated with the international community, developing and sharing best practices for managing visitor use on public lands and waters. Kerri has been honored to receive other awards on her career path, including the 2017 George Wright Society Social Science Achievement Award and the 2016 Legends Award from the American Recreation Coalition. Kerri is forever grateful for these amazing career experiences and continues to be passionate about her work and collaborating with her talented colleagues in the National Park Service.

Read the release announcing Dr. Cahill's win.