Former FCPA Director Bill Beckner Remembered

Bill BecknerA 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:

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.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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