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Charles H. Odegaard
1928 - 2007
Inducted October 2013
"Nothing happens without public support and understanding."
“Nothing happens without public support and understanding.” This was his mantra and a mantra that served him well during his more than 50 years contributing to and serving the field of parks and recreation.
Odegaard advocated and implemented new ways to manage and establish parks that protected treasured cultural and natural areas while providing significant opportunities for public recreation. He garnered support to increase park acquisitions by more than 18,600 acres, established programs in historic preservation, scenic and recreational highways, snow parks, outdoor learning centers and access to ocean beaches for all citizens. He challenged those in parks and recreation to be forward thinking in meeting the needs of constituents and was dedicated to helping others advance their careers in the field.
Charles Odegaard contributed over fifty years to the parks and recreation movement. He worked at all governmental levels as well as working for the National Recreation Association. He was dedicated to helping others advance their careers and challenged the parks movement to be forward thinking in meeting the needs of their constituents. He advocated and implemented new ways to manage and establish parks that protected outstanding cultural and natural areas while providing significant opportunities for recreational enjoyment.
After serving in World War 11, he obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin. He later earned a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Nebraska. Later in his career he shared his knowledge with many students by teaching park management classes at the University of Washington, Oregon State University, the National Park Service (NPS) Albright Training Center, and writing for many professional journals. He co-authored several text books including Park Management.
In 1963, he was appointed director of the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission at the age of 35. He served in that capacity for 16 years, a length of time unheard of for state park directors. During his tenure he developed public interest that garnered support to increase park acquisitions by over 18,600 acres especially on Puget Sound and the Pacific Coast. Establishment of programs in historic preservation, scenic and recreational highways, and snow parks, as well as construction of outdoor learning centers and development of access to ocean beaches were all accomplished during his tenure.
He then joined the NPS as Deputy Regional Director of the Pacific Northwest Region (PNW) serving there until 1983 when he was promoted to Regional Director for the Midwest Region. He returned to the PNW as Director from 1987 through 1995. He finished his career with NPS as Special Assistant to the Director focusing on tourism, environmental education and urban opportunities in the Service, retiring in 1997. In his positions with NPS he created new parks and a unique model for management with the establishment of partnership parks. Existing parks benefited during Odegaard's tenure with improvements to facilities including the monumental reconstruction of the lodge at Crater Lake National Park.
His leadership role extended to organizations throughout the country, and abroad. He served as president of 8 of those, including the National Association of State Park Directors, related Washington state organizations, the National Society for Park Resources, the American Academy for Park Resources, of which he was also a charter member, and the American Youth Hostels. He was a member of the NRPA Board of Trustees between 1972 and 1979, and was influential on its Goals Committee, helping to set future directions and procedures. In addition he was sought as a consultant to many States and several European countries for guidance on issues related his broad experiences of leadership.
Chuck Odegaard will be remembered for his infectious smile, his integrity, his open mindedness, his kindness to others and his undying commitment to parks and recreation.