2014 marks the 80th anniversary of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), which includes 65 parks, 15 regional trails and more than 113,000 acres. Did you know that the residential developer and realtor Duncan McDuffie was a conservationist, pioneer, and original proponent and founder of the California park system? He was a major player in the development of the environmental movement of the SF Bay Area.
McDuffie loved the Sierra Nevadas and spent a month in 1908 hiking and mapping a 230-mile route across the High Sierra from Yosemite to Kings Canyon with Little Joe LeConte, the UC professor who had cofounded the Sierra Club. McDuffie made the first ascents of Mount Abbot (13,736 ft) and Black Kaweah (13,754ft).
McDuffie served as president of the Save the Redwoods League and president of the Sierra Club from 1928-1931 and 1943-1946 and was chair of the California State Parks Committee, which began lobbying to create a California park system in 1927 when 10,000 acres of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) became available for sale. McDuffie chaired the $6 million bond campaign for that cause.
When McDuffie’s former employee Clement Calhoun Young became governor of California in 1927, McDuffie urged the Governor to use Frederick Law Olmsted Jr (who had previously designed some of his residential developments) to draw up the state park.
Olmsted traveled from Los Angeles to Berkeley to meet with McDuffie (a UC Berkeley alumus), Robert Sibley, and UC political science professor Samuel May, who, as director of the UC Bureau of Public Administration, had obtained a $5,200 grant to pay for the report and Ansel Hall of the National Park Service.
Olmsted’s plan was followed by the East Bay Regional Park plan. The park study was approved in 1930 and the new park system was launched. As Earth Day approaches on April 22, we recognize the visionary work and passion of founder Duncan McDuffie, who had the foresight to envision the goal to preserve the California Regional Park District lands.