Colin Smith, currently the chief ranger at Olympic National Park in Washington, has been selected to serve as the acting superintendent of Manzanar National Historic Site from late January through March 2014.

He will temporarily replace Les Inafuku, who retired from the National Park Service on Jan. 3. A permanent superintendent will be selected in the spring.

Acting Superintendent Colin Smith
Acting Superintendent Colin Smith

Smith has worked for the National Park Service since 1989. His previous permanent assignments, all in law enforcement, include Point Reyes National Seashore, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park. He served as a seasonal park ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Devil’s Postpile National Monument.

Smith grew up in the Bay Area and is familiar with the Eastern Sierra. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Colorado.

“Manzanar is a unique park that sheds light on a tragic part of our country’s history,” Smith said. “I am impressed with how visitors connect to the site. I look forward to spending time in the Owens Valley and working with the staff to keep Manzanar operating smoothly until a new superintendent arrives.”

Congress established Manzanar National Historic Site in 1992, the result of decades of grassroots efforts by Japanese Americans and others. The NPS preserves the sites and shares the stories of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans confined during World War II because of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” More than 11,000 men, women, and children were confined at Manzanar, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens.

Nearly all of the 800 buildings that made up Manzanar War Relocation Center are gone — long since relocated to other areas or demolished — but the auditorium, stone sentry posts, cemetery monument, historic orchards, Japanese gardens, and foundations remain to evoke Manzanar’s past and its importance as a lesson for the future. More than 80,000 people visit the site each year.

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