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Crozet conservationist awarded for parks service

John Reynolds bleeds green.

Born while his father was a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park, Reynolds, a Crozet resident, went on to have his own nearly 40-year career with the National Park Service.

He was recently awarded the Pugsley Medal, a prestigious award honoring outstanding contributions in parks and conservation given by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.

While working for the National Park Service, Reynolds’ career took him all over the country to many of the nation’s most famous natural conservation areas. He conceived of and led the creation of the NPS Guidelines for Sustainable Design, instituting broad and inclusive sustainability policies for the Service, and climbed in the executive ranks, retiring as director of the NPS’s Pacific West Region in 2002.

“I don’t think anybody could ever describe a more fascinating, satisfying and fun career than mine,” he said.

He joins other notable recipients of the Honorable Cornelius Pugsley Award — including Stephen Mather, founder and director of the National Park Service, and Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady.

Three friends and colleagues were responsible for his nomination, Reynolds said, making it all the more significant to him.

“The award is great because it’s a meaningful award, but the idea that being able to receive it came from people that you respect in the highest degree is what makes it so incredibly special,” Reynolds said.

John Potts, the current chairman of the Pugsley selection committee, said Reynolds is “outstanding and well deserving of this award.”

“Of the past several Pugsley Award winners, he’s probably the most outstanding in terms of his accomplishments over his career,” Potts said. “He’s done a lot of good in a lot of places during his tenure at the National Park Service. He’s left an imprint on the world.”

He started his career as a landscape architect and park planner working on and leading long-range planning at parks including Saratoga National Historical Park, Acadia National Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Yosemite National Park.

In 1979, he became assistant superintendent for planning and resource management of the newly authorized Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and led the creation of the park’s first long-range plan.

Reynolds also spent time advising on park issues in 12 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Poland, the former USSR and India. He also was U.S. Delegate to the World Heritage Committee.

In his retirement, he has worked for the National Park Foundation and for the Student Conservation Association. He served on the boards of several nonprofits, including

Partners for Public Lands and Shenandoah National Park Trust, and as a founding board member of the Friends of the John Smith Trail, the Chesapeake Conservancy, Global Parks, the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership and the Friends of Flight 93.

Reynolds said he’s been passionate about conservation and parks for so many years because he’s enjoyed working to figure out how to manage protection of lands while at the same time making them available for public enjoyment, and how to meet the changing desires of society.

“It’s those ‘How do you do that?’ questions that have infused what started out as ‘Gee, these are great jobs; these are fun,’ to be real intellectual challenges and that’s what hooks people into the National Park Service and gets them to stay. The intellectual challenge is just incredible. And you get to carry it out in the nicest places in the country.”

In addition to his father, other family members have a rich history with the National Park Service. His wife, Barbara, was born and raised in Yosemite Valley and worked for the park concessioner and the NPS. Their son, Mike, is National Park Service regional director of the Intermountain Region and has served as Acting National Park Service Director. His brother, Bob, was a career interpreter and biologist, superintendent of several national parks and deputy regional director of the Intermountain Region.

In retirement, Reynolds spends his time exploring Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“[Crozet] has turned out to be just a fabulous place to live.”


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