A man who brought national honors to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) and devoted his entire career to the field of parks, recreation, and interpretation of the natural world has passed away. Former FCPA Director William C. Beckner died on July 27, 2018, at the age of 70.
Beckner joined the Park Authority in 1977 as the agency’s chief naturalist. Eight years later, he led the agency’s detailed strategic planning process, and in February of 1989, he was named the Park Authority’s director. He served in that post until December of 1993, when he left the FCPA to establish his own consulting business.
In 1990, Beckner advocated for the Park Authority to have the ability to control park proffers that developers donate to the county. He wanted to ensure a balance between parks and buildings. Beckner stated that if the Park Authority oversaw the donated land, “…then we would be doing what we’re supposed to be doing: protecting and preserving environmental and cultural resources. That’s our mission.”
Beckner remained an advocate for a robust park system throughout his tenure. Upon his resignation in 1993, then Park Authority Board Chairman Gregory C. Evans said Beckner had been instrumental in the repair of major park facilities, downsizing of the agency, and planning for new public golf courses. The Washington Post quoted Evans as saying, “Mr. Beckner has shown great vision during his tenure as director and placed the Park Authority in an excellent position to continue as one of the leading park systems in the nation.”
Most recently, Beckner was President of Conservation, Environment and Historic Preservation Incorporated of Chevy Chase, Maryland, a company that provided management, planning, and consulting services to park, recreation and resource management organizations.
Brenda Adams-Weyant, Executive Director of the National Association of County Park and Recreation Professionals (NACPRO), remembered Beckner for his service and expertise. “He had a long and accomplished career in parks and recreation, and I am glad that I had the chance to work with him. Bill served on the NACPRO Board in the late 1980s and in recent years was an advisor to the board.”
Adams-Weyant added, “When a member contacted me with a challenging management issue, Bill had the experience and resources to help.”
Beckner was also inducted into the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), a group of distinguished practitioners and scholars in parks and recreation management who are committed to the advancement of that field.
According to his AAPRA bio, the Iowa native began his career in parks and recreation in 1966 as a Recreation Specialist in the United States Air Force. After military service, he studied recreation administration at Iowa State and environmental science at Clemson. During his Master’s research, he worked for the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway as a ranger/naturalist.
Beckner also spent time with the Mississippi State Park Commission and the Oregon State Park System before coming to Fairfax County.
While Beckner was director of the FPCA, the Park Authority:
- Was a 1993 NRPA Gold Medal finalist for Special Recreation
- Earned the National Golf Foundation’s 1991 and 1992 Golf and the Environment Award
- Earned the NRPA 1991 National Aquatic Program of the Year Honor
- Won two National Association of Counties Awards for Excellence and Innovation
AAPRA notes that he made multiple presentations for park organizations and spent much of his time helping improve park and recreation opportunities and resources.
Among the committees on which Beckner served:
- The President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, Land Resources Committee
- The Planning Regulations Team for the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Act
- The National Urban Recreation Study
- The Nationwide Outdoor Recreation Plan.
- The Professional Services Committee, Professional Ethics Committee and Education Committee for AIN (chair)
- The Legislative and Education Committees for NACPRO (chair)
- Program Committee for NRPA
- The Natural Resource Council of America
- The Advisory Committee for the Virginia Tech Natural Resource Management Graduate School.
He also he worked for the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) conducting research. In this role, Beckner facilitated research in the parks and recreation field that served as a tool for agencies nationwide.
Nancy Magill, Beckner’s partner of 32 years, is planning a tribute to Beckner in the fall.
Beckner talks about the creation of the Park Authority’s first donated park, Eakin Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iohBvTO-khc&feature=youtu.be
David Ochs, Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority, and Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer for the Park Authority, contributed to this blog. Photo provided by AAPRA.