- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The National Park Service superintendent who was at the helm of the Pearl Harbor visitors’ center when tour companies allegedly sold tickets to the site is taking a job in Massachusetts.

Paul DePrey said Tuesday he will leave Hawaii in June to be superintendent of the Salem Maritime Center and Saugus Ironworks national historic sites.

“It has not always been a smooth road,” DePrey said of his time at Pearl Harbor, where he has been superintendent since 2008.

“But I feel like we’ve addressed many of those concerns on how to improve the visitor experience,” he said.

As superintendent, he’s responsible for the USS Arizona Memorial, an open-air structure honoring the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed when their battleship was bombed by Japanese planes on Dec. 7, 1941. The memorial sits atop the sunken hull of the vessel.

He’s also responsible for a visitors’ center for the memorial, which includes a museum and grassy grounds.

Internal National Park Service reports released last year said tour companies sold tickets for boat rides to the memorial with the knowledge of park officials even though tickets are supposed to be free.

A September 2013 park service report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said park service employees gave walk-in tickets intended for independent visitors to commercial tour companies who then sold them.

Tickets were also given to Pacific Historic Parks, a nonprofit that runs a gift shop and raises money for the memorial. The organization gave some to people spending $7 to rent an audio tour from the nonprofit, and gave others to companies that would lead clients to the audio tours, the report said.

There were rarely enough tickets for independent visitors while this was going on, the report said.

In response to these criticisms, the park service adopted a new ticketing system in January with the aim of more clearly laying out the terms and conditions of the permits commercial tour companies operate under. The park service also planned to start scanning tickets to get data on how they are being used.

Another internal park service report outlined substandard maintenance at the visitors’ center, including scuffed museum walls that languished unrepaired and uncleaned bird feces.

DePrey said Tuesday the Pearl Harbor visitors center suffered from a maintenance backlog just like at other National Park Service sites.

The park service hasn’t named a new superintendent for Pearl Harbor, which draws 1.8 million people annually.

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