California State Park Rangers Association

CSPRA's Honorary California State Park Ranger Award

Joe Engbeck, 2017 Honorary State Park Ranger

with CSPRA President Mike Lynch

Joe with Congratulations Letter, Plaque and Ranger Stetson

presented by CSPRA February 26, 2017

Following are several significant, statewide projects that highlight Joe’s contributions to the State Park System and the park movement over the years:

• While employed at State Parks, Joe was the author of scores of park brochures and mini- folders designed to help park visitors discover and enjoy the resources of their park system.

• He wrote State Parks of California, from 1864 to the Present (1980), a seminal work that describes the birth and growth of the park movement in California and the subsequent acquisition and development the California State Park System. • He authored several books and pamphlets related to specific State Parks, including: Enduring Giants (1973), the story of the Giant Sequoias and the Big Trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park; Point Lobos State Reserve, Interpretation of a Primitive Landscape (1970); and "La Purisima Mission State Historic Park" (1979).

2017 Honorary California State Park Ranger


Joseph H. Engbeck, Jr.


Joe Engbeck is an environmental activist, historian, and writer of books, pamphlets, and brochures dealing with the State Park System and Western heritage in general. He resides in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Sondra.


Joe was a writer, editor, and manager for the California State Park publications program, retiring in 1995. In the 1960s, before joining the department, he helped organize People for Open Space. Joe has since served on the boards of Save San Francisco Bay Association, the East Bay Regional Park District Association, the California Historical Society, and the Claremont Canyon Conservancy.


Joe was co-founder of Western Heritage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing books and films about the West. Also, he is currently a councilor for Save the Redwoods League.


Since retirement he has continued to work on projects related to the protection and preservation of the California State Park System.



Honorary Ranger


Past Award Recipients


Program Policy

and Member

Nomination Form

• He was an original member of CSPRA’s Save Bodie! Committee whose diligence and perseverance during the 1990’s helped to preserve the cultural and scenic resources of Bodie SHP

• After his retirement, he wrote By the People, For the People (2002), which describes the contribution of the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1933 and 1941 in developing the facilities and infrastructure for the nascent California State Park System. In 1995 he wrote an extended essay, "The Redwoods, the United Nations, and World Peace," for the commemoration of the founding of the United Nations held in Muir Woods, where one meeting of the Peace Conference (originally inspired by FDR) had taken place in 1945.

• He was involved in the production of and served as historian for the award-winning 2012 PBS film California Forever, a two-part film that chronicles the history (Episode 1) and the challenges (Episode 2) facing the State Park System in the twenty-first century.

• His latest book project is a large-scale work about the history of the movement to protect the remaining stands of redwoods in California and elsewhere. The book is currently in production, sponsored by the Save the Redwoods League.


Joe Engbeck's lifetime of work has consistently focused on state parks and the park movement in California. His enduring message has highlighted the significance of natural and cultural heritage preservation and the importance of connecting the people with their parks. Like Frederick Law Olmsted, Joe Engbeck has promoted the idea that parks are not a luxury; rather, they are essential for the quality of life of our citizens and for the health of our democracy.


Joe's many accomplishments are consistent with the stated objectives and values of the California State Park Ranger Association, and therefore we humbly submit his name in nomination for recognition as a CSPRA “Honorary Ranger.”


Nomination submitted by Members Dick Troy, John Mott, and Donna Pozzi.  Approved by unanimous  SPRA Board vote on January 14, 2017.