California State Park Rangers Association

CSPRA Organizational History

by Doug Bryce 1998, updated by Jeff Price 2014

The idea for an organization like CSPRA had been discussed privately or in small groups around the state for several years in the early 1960s, ever since a new law created the Department of Parks and Recreation. The first revelation that an organization was not only possible but already well under way, was unveiled at at a statewide park supervisors' meeting held at Columbia State Historic Park, in the fall of 1964

 

Behind the scenes, well before the idea was rolled out at the Columbia meeting, one man's concept for a ranger organization began to take shape months earlier. Ranger Llewelly Paul Griffith (26 Feb 1917 to 11 Oct 1990), known best as Paul Griffith, was the driving force to establish CSPRA. Paul was know to be outgoing, gregarious, cordial, well-spoken, and one who really seemed to enjoy dealing with politics; he was the perfect person to organize Park Rangers and eventually serve as the first elected president for CSPRA.

Paul visited the Operations Chief in Sacramento, explained his organizational concept for a better trained, uniformed and equipped Ranger force in the future, and got his blessing to explore the idea and move ahead with organization. He also shared his idea with Division Chief Earl Hanson, and received a positive response. Paul then met with organizers in the California State Employees Association (CSEA) in Sacramento and sold them on the idea.

Ranger Paul Griffith, Seacliff SB CSPRA photo ©

CSEA agreed to help with governing documents, assist with incorporation as a certified association to represent Rangers. CSEA even agreed to provide the services of a staff attorney, Phil Geiger, to serve as executive secretary and guide the new organization as it got started.

 

At that 1964 statewide park supervisors' meeting in Columbia, member Doug Bryce recalls a disconcerting item not on the agenda was creating quite a heated discussion. A State Park Comissioner from Oceanside, Karl Wray, was lobbying the Department at that time to have Rangers in period dress, rather than the identifiable Ranger uniform, in historic units such as Columbia. Opposition to that idea, and clearly seeing the need for Park Rangers to have a representative voice on park issues, sparked an agreement to establish the California State Park Rangers Association. Being able to explain his prior organizational groundwork and promised pro bono administrative support, made the discussion at Columbia a perfect time for Paul to unveil his ideas.

Exec Sec Phil Geiger, VP Al Salzgeber, President Paul Griffith

with Honorary Ranger Walt Disney, Asilomar 1967

It was decided that an organization was needed to represent the statewide interests of Park Rangers to management and the state. On November 4, 1964, CSPRA held its first meeting of newly elected officers and directors under the guidance of President L. Paul Griffith. In the fall of 1965 the first annual conference was held at Asilomar. In 1967, CSPRA was incorporated as a professional organization and two years later, was recognized by the state as an authorized representative of its members.

L. Paul Griffith

CSPRA's First President

CSPRA President Paul Griffith signing organizational

start up documents with founding 1964 Officers and Board.

In 1978, with the passage of the Employee-Employer Relations Act, CSPRA made the decision to remain a professional organization, and not venture into the collective bargaining areana. Since 1979 CSPRA membership has been open to all state park employees, and now includes trades and maintenance workers, resource ecologists, guides, district interpretive specialists, seasonal staff and office technicians. Employees from all disciplines support the advocacy work that CSPRA does for state parks. Over the years CSPRA has accomplished many tasks and achieved some important goals. CSPRA has been in the forefront of many environmental battles.

 

Some of the many accomplishments include supporting Pescadero Marsh reclassification from park to reserve status, successfully urging that the Off-Highway Vehicle units be included as part of the current state park system, rather than creating a separate OHV department, and support of various initiatives such as the California bottle bill and a ban against offshore oil drilling. Since 1974, CSPRA has strongly lobbied in support of all Park Bond Acts and initiatives.

 

In 1988 CSPRA continued to lead in the effort to maintain the integrity of the State Park System by establishing the SAVE BODIE! Committee. This committee, chaired by Donna Pozzi, worked hard for nine years to prevent the mining of Bodie Bluff and resulting damage to the park. This was a fight against a Canadian mining company, Galactic, to stop construction of an open pit gold mine adjacent to Bodie State Historic Park, where gold ore would be processed and recovered with liquid cyanide. This is the largest and most significant project ever undertaken by CSPRA and is considered to be California's largest statewide historic preservation battle of the 20th century.

Palm Springs GEC 1989, CSPRA Charter Members

 

Back row from left; Allen Ulm, Jerry Johnson, Ron McCall, Milt Frincke, Jim Geary, Kirk Wallace

 

Front row from left; Bill Reinhardt, Herman Schlerf, Chuck Lyden, Phil van Duesen, Ron McCullough, Charles Mehlert, Joe McCall, Wes Cater, Dick Brock, Doug Bryce

Just as CSPRA is concerned about the resources of the State Park System we are also concerned about individual members. Since 1967 CSPRA has been providing scholarships to its members. Since its creation CSPRA has provided relief for its members in times of disaster or personal tragedy. Keeping the spirit of the park family alive is one of CSPRA's most important objectives. Together with the Park Rangers Association of California, CSPRA sponsors an Annual California Parks Conference, attracting park professionals from many agencies throughout the state. CSPRA publishes its quarterly newsletter, The Wave , as well as a volunteer managed website, to keep members up-to-date on current issues and trends.

 

In the 1990s, we began sponsoring an annual Retirees Rendezvous in the early fall. This has helped keep our retired members together and more in touch with CSPRA. The last decade of the century has been a very difficult time for park professionals with tighter budgets and ever-increasing demands on the park heritage. As the population has continued to grow and pressure to find prime land for development has increased, the pressure on parks has also continued to increase.

 

More than ever CSPRA and its members are needed to serve as the conscience for the Department of Parks and Recreation, and to do everything possible to maintain the integrity of our natural, historical, and cultural park heritage