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A man to match the mountains.

William Penn Moot, Jr., the 12th NPS director, is remembered as a lifelong champion of the parks.

William Penn Mott, Jr., who died September 21, 1992, a month shy of his 83rd birthday, has been compared to conservation legends of his and earlier times. Mott, who was the 12th director of the National Park Service, was described by colleagues as someone who had a love of beauty matching that of John Muir and who had a vision as broad and far-reaching as Teddy Roosevelt's.

"Bill Mott was a true conservationist and one of the last half century's greatest defenders of the national parks," said NPCA President Paul C. Pritchard. Mott served on NPCA's board of trustees from 1981 to 1985, when he was appointed director of NPS by President Reagan. "His term as NPS director came in a dark period for national parks and our environment, and he was a ray of sunlight," said Pritchard, referring to the years when the Department of the Interior was headed by James Watt and Donald Hodel.

Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Examiner wrote: "In a period when President Reagan would scarcely give a plug nickel to fish and wildlife, Mott somehow convinced the boss to add 13 new national parks from 1985 to 1988." Stienstra went on to say that Mott had created more parklands in America, including the Bay Area and California, than possibly anyone else in history.

Mott resigned as Park Service director in 1989 under pressure over his decision to delay control of a huge fire at Yellowstone National Park. Mott, who believed making risky decisions was part of the creative process, maintained that forest fires should be allowed to take their natural course.

After he resigned, Mott continued to work on park issues. Most recently, he had been working as a special assistant to the director of the National Park Service's Western Region on plans to transform Presidio military base in San Francisco into a national park.

Mott was a man who liked to do rather than to talk about doing and was among those who had the energy and the motivation to transform dreams into reality. One of Mott's proudest achievements, Children's Fairyland in California, was the nation's first theme park and an early model for Disneyland. He also was the first director to hire women, historians, and archaeologists as park staffers in California.

Mott built an impressive resume. After working in his own landscape architecture business, Mott was hired in 1946 as Oakland's superintendent of parks, and he served in that position for 17 years. Mott also served as general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland and was director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation from 1967 to 1975. During that time, he set up a campsite reservation system in California--the first of its kind.

When Mott became director of the National Park Service, he wrote in National Parks: "My decision to accept the directorship of the National Park Service hinged on whether I felt that I would be able to make a real contribution. I wanted to make an impact, to effect change, to dramatically improve, where improvement was necessary, the running of the National Park System." Everyone who knew him would agree that he had.

Many people have paid tribute to Mott since his death. What follows is an attempt to capture that tribute by reprinting excerpts of remarks made about this friend to the parks.

Robert Baker, director of the NPS Rocky Mountain Region.

Bill Mott served with distinction at all levels of government, and for more than 50 years, he served as a guiding light for all of us in the parks movement.

He did the right thing, untainted by petty politics, ego, or ambition. He counseled all of us to do the same. With his extraordinarily creative mind, he challenged us to look at improved ways of serving the public and protecting our parks and challenged us to see the world through new paradigms.

The measure of this good man is not the wars that he won or lost, not necessarily the good works that he has done, but the principles he lived by and the spirit that he brought to this world.

As Denis Galvin [Mott's deputy director at NPS] said so often, he passionately cared about all parks with every bone in his body. Bill Mott will always be a guiding light for each of us and an inspiration for all of us. He remains our touchstone with integrity.

Donald W. Murphy, director of California's Parks and Recreation Dept.

Along with his many honors and accomplishments, William Penn Mott, Jr., will be remembered for the way he touched and inspired everyone who knew him or listened to him speak. His commitment to the park movement was extraordinary. His unique combination of energy, enthusiasm, honesty, creativity, and vision will be sorely missed.

He redesigned many of Oakland's public arks to make them less formal and more friendly and usable. He got the whole community involved in the city's park program and raised private funds to carry out projects that would have been impossible otherwise.

During Mott's tenure as director of California parks, volunteerism doubled and redoubled. Some 35 nonprofit, cooperative associations were formed, and volunteers got involved in publication sales, trail building, interpretive programs, and a variety of other support activities.

Under Mott's leadership, the National Park Service enjoyed a resurgence of pride and self-confidence. As director, Mott liked to remind people that short-term political or financial to destroy the intrinsic values that parks were created to protect.

L.W. Lane, Jr., former ambassador to Australia.

In the 30 years I knew Bill Mott and worked closely with him, he was always eager to get people working together to solve problems with creative solution--seven when those solutions were controversial. Bill's optimism that any difficult job could be done, and his enthusiasm for nature and parks, carried him through so many great accomplishments. His positive attitude also allowed him to keep his head up when the going got rough.

Bill had a true love of the land and the flowers, trees, animal life, and all the things that existed on the land--whether it was a beautiful beach with sand dunes, mountain range, redwood forest, field of poppies, historic building, or remnant of earlier civilizations.

In virtually every aspect of his life, Bill Mott's work and achievements left all of us a much better world.

Richard C. Trudeau, longtime friend and colleague.

"Give me men to match my mountains" goes a sage saying, and Bill Mott was a man who matched our mountains.

I treasured Bill Mott as a close friend for 38 years, but he also was a mentor to me in the park field and an admired compatriot. He was always miles ahead in his thinking, had an idea a minute, inspired others, and made things happen that otherwise wouldn't have happened. One characteristic always stood out, one which was well expressed by Thomas Carlyle.

Carlyle said: "Never give up, never give in. You've got what it takes and God will help you." Bill Mott never gave up and never gave in, and his belief in God helped him to achieve the awesome goals he set for himself, the advancement of parks for people and the protection of the environment--locally, regionally, in the state, in the nation, and in the world.

Bill envisioned a ring of parks around San Francisco Bay and trails that would connect them. Now, 35 years later, this dream is on the verge of becoming reality in both the Bay Ridge and Bay Shoreline trails. It was his vision, energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, and creativity that will be remembered most.

Russ Cahill, NPCA trustee and former parks director in California.

William Penn Mott was one of the most vital, energetic people I ever met. Under his management in the 1970s, the California State Park system attained world-class status. Plans were drawn for museums, parks, recreation areas, historic sites, and ecosystem preserves. Plans were based on science and political savvy. My job, as a subsequent state parks director, was to fulfill this brilliant landscape architect's dreams.

Bill, who was appointed under Governor Reagan, was fired when Jerry Brown became governor. But disappointment did not slow him. When I first knew him, Bill was running the Oakland Zoo, managing the California State Parks Foundation (supplying $12.5 million a year in assistance to the parks), and employing ex-convicts and rehabilitating drug addicts to supplement crews to improve Oakland's financially strapped parks and landscaped areas.

Bill seemed to have no end to his ability to get new programs started. He had more good ideas than anyone I know, and I suspect that if I catch up with him in the next life, there will be another big job to do.
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Title Annotation:former National Park Service Director William Penn Mott, Jr.
Publication:National Parks
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1476
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