Penelope Del Bene Named Superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park

New Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent Penelope Del Bene. (Photo courtesy NPS)

Penelope “Penny” Del Bene has been selected as superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, effective April 7, the National Park Service announced.

Del Bene served as the parks’ acting superintendent for four months in 2023, according to the press release.

“I am excited to welcome Penny as superintendent of the national parks on St. John and St. Thomas,” said Mark Foust, NPS South Atlantic-Gulf regional director. “Penny’s experience thoughtfully leading people, building partnerships and advancing community relations and public involvement as a park and resource manager will serve her, the park and its stakeholders well.”

Del Bene has served as superintendent of Biscayne National Park in South Florida since 2020. Under her leadership, the park completed over six million dollars worth of infrastructure repairs from damage sustained by Hurricane Irma, improved visitor experience at popular camping and day-use locations, increased visitor access to the park through education-based experiences, and preserved coral reefs through a multi-faceted programmatic approach, the press release stated.

Del Bene has worked closely with Indigenous communities by building and maintaining relationships with local tribes. She works collaboratively with communities, stakeholders, partners, friends’ groups and the public to balance preservation of cultural and natural resources with operational necessities, such as providing for visitor use, access and infrastructure development, the release stated.

“It is an honor to permanently join the team at Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument as superintendent,” Del Bene said. “Time spent as acting superintendent for the Virgin Islands’ parks, engaging with park employees, stakeholders and community members showed me the passion and dedication of people I am eager to work collaboratively with on challenging social, natural and cultural resource issues.”

Del Bene’s 19 years of federal experience includes multiple positions as an archeologist, cultural resource specialist and tribal liaison. She has worked at Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks in Florida, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, as well as for the U.S. Forest Service in California and one of the busiest Bureau of Land Management energy offices in Wyoming. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Oregon and a Master of Arts in anthropology from California State University, Northridge. according to the release.

Growing up near the ocean and spending days at the beach, she has always felt at home near the water. Del Bene looks forward to joining the St. John community with her husband, Terry, and two rescue dogs, which had been abandoned in national parks, it said.