Nakita Lopez and her family hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Nakita Lopez and her family hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Photo: Nakita Lopez

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.    

Hometown:  El Portal, California

Program of study, relevant job experience: I went to school for outdoor recreational leadership. I love learning new things but learn in the field much better than in a classroom. I started to work for trails programs for National Parks during my summers in college. I quickly fell in love with it and spent many years jumping from summer to winter parks working for various trails programs. 

Nakita Lopez building a retaining wall.
Nakita Lopez building a retaining wall. Photo: Nakita Lopez

Position in our Outer Banks national parks:  I started in October 2023 as the Network Safety and Occupational Health Manager for the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina (Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Moores Creek National Battlefield, and Wright Brothers National Memorial).

Where you can be found: My office is at the headquarters building at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo or out and about in the field.   

Other national parks you have worked at:  Yosemite National Park (CA), Zion National Park (UT), Kings Canyon National Park (CA), Rocky Mountain National Park (CO), Pinnacles National Park (CA), Grand Teton National Park (WY), Saguaro National Park (AZ), Joshua Tree National Park (CA), Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (CA).

Currently listening to/watching:  Listening to audio books: The Fearless Organization and just finished The Shadow Glass (third book in the Bone Witch series). I mostly listen to books but when I do listen to music, I listen to The Devil Makes Three or First Aid Kit. Watching: “Reservation Dogs” and re-watching the “Monk” TV show.

What do you like to do in your free time?  I like to hike, climb, camp, backpack, spend time with my family (dog included!), play card and board games, cook, and try to grow plants.  

Nakita Lopez rock climbing.
Nakita Lopez rock climbing. Photo: Nakita Lopez

What do you like most about the Outer Banks?   The beaches! Coming from the West I have been so amazed at how nice the beaches are and how warm the water is. I also have found so many cool shells and seen so much ocean wildlife. I’m so excited for the summer and to see some sea turtles! I also love the various hiking trails around the Outer Banks. 

A scallop shell Nakita Lopez found on the beach
A shell Nakita Lopez found on the beach. Photo: Nakita Lopez

How did you end up in your current position with the National Park Service? 

After building trails for many years, I started to consider the next step in my career with NPS. That led me to becoming the Roads and Trails Supervisor for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  Though there were many aspects that I loved about being a supervisor I didn’t want to stay in facility management. So, I thought about what parts of my supervisor role that I loved. I loved being an advocate for my employees, growing their careers, and creating a psychologically safe program. Safety has always been a top priority for me throughout my career, so I started to pursue a career in safety, health, and wellness. I worked with some of my mentors and a coach to steer my career into Safety and Occupational Health Management. I lucked out in finding this job opening and being able to move out here.

What does a typical workday or work week look like for you?   

I’m still learning a lot about this new position, but one of the things I enjoy is the fact that this job has a lot of variety.  A typical day could be going out to visit different projects or facilities, ensuring employees are getting their safety training and have proper safety gear, following up on accidents in the workplace, or making sure the parks are up to date on programs and policies. 

What do you enjoy most about working in our Outer Banks national parks?   

I really enjoy all the people I’m working with and getting to know the area.  The Outer Banks is very different from other National Parks I have worked in, so it has been super fun getting to know a new environment. 

What is a favorite memory you have from your time working in the Outer Banks?

I have two favorite memories. One was first arriving at the Outer Banks and being so amazed by the beaches (and slightly terrified of how close our temporary housing was to the ocean). My second favorite memory was climbing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!  I had never been inside a lighthouse before!  

A view from inside the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
A view from inside the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Photo: Nakita Lopez

Why are our Outer Banks national parks important?   

They are important because they help in preserving the area’s rich history and ecological integrity. The Outer Banks provide crucial habitats for wildlife, iconic landmarks, and various recreation opportunities.  By safeguarding and offering education about these natural and cultural treasures, these parks continue to promote the mission of the National Park Service. 

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or about our Outer Banks national parks?  

Come discover the marvels of this remarkable area!  There is something to offer for everyone. Come and explore the ocean wildlife, delve into the history of the first flight, and experience a plethora of ocean recreation activities along the coastline!