Ray H. Murray (1941- ) received the Pugsley Medal in 1992 for "contributions to the improvement of cooperation between local, state and national recreation and park programs." Murray pioneered several innovative programs which had a widespread impact both on the National Park Service (NPS) and the broader parks and conservation field. Those pioneering roles included developing: (a) early guidelines for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; (b) the Santa Monica Mountains plan which offered a new prototype of "Greenline Parks" in the NPS; (c) new technical assistance programs for local, state and federal park and recreation agencies; (d) a management efficiency program for the NPS; and (e) partnerships among multiple agencies often at different levels of government. In the latter part of his career as chief of the Division of Planning, Grants and Environmental Quality of the NPS Western Region, Murray was able to institutionalize many of these pioneering ideas in the NPS through his responsibility for producing general management plans for the parks in the region and special area studies.
Murray was raised out in the country on a forested homesite of 32 acres on the periphery of Baltimore, Maryland. This stimulated a strong interest in hunting and fishing, which undergirded his subsequent career in outdoor recreation. He received a B.S. degree in forestry at Pennsylvania State University. As part of his curriculum, he took a course in outdoor recreation. The ORRRC reports had recently been published, and a course professor predicted outdoor recreation was a growth field, so Murray decided that would be his career path.
After graduating from Penn State in 1962, he attended Officer Candidate School in the US Army and was assigned as lieutenant to a Nike Missile Air Defense Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Nike was a nuclear defensive missile system displayed around major cities in the US. Ironically, decades later in his parks career, Murray was involved in transforming the decommissioned Nike sites into park lands as part of new National Recreation Areas and the federal Lands-to-Parks Program.
In 1965, he was hired by the Philadelphia office of the recently-established Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR). Murray recalled that BOR was "a small, scrappy organization. It was new and not hide-bound in terms of corporate culture. It was entrepreneurial, providing its staff with considerable fiexibility." Its small size and newness facilitated relatively rapid promotion and an unusual amount of responsibility and opportunity for young staffers.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was being launched in 1965, and Murray was hired by BOR as a grants officer responsible for administering it in four northeast states. This involved going to state capitals and assisting states in writing grant applications so money could be obligated. Legal issues had to be resolved; political realities accommodated; guidelines developed; and application procedures addressed. As a neophyte in the field, Murray was interacting with experienced state park directors so he benefited from the self-confidence and training he had acquired at Officer Candidate School and the Army. He was in the field viewing a variety of park sites, gaining insights into park operations, and learning the nuances of land acquisition. His experience led to a two-month stint in Washington, DC to assist in revamping the LWCF manual and establishing a tracking system for LWCF projects.
Anxious to explore life on the West Coast, in 1968, Murray successfully applied for a position in BOR's San Francisco office in their Special Studies Unit which undertook feasibility studies of potential national recreation areas. His first study was a multi-year effort at Pyramid Lake in Nevada, which required reconciling the sometimes conflicting agendas of six federal agencies, and dealing with lawsuits filed by competing water basin stakeholders. It was a prelude to several other similarly controversial studies including those at Golden Gate, Lake Tahoe, and Santa Monica Mountains.
Alcatraz Island, at the time, was a surplus property which some wanted to turn into a casino or some other form of commercial development. The team in which Murray played a key role thought the site could be part of a nucleus for a "Gateway West." The Gateway National Recreation Area was being assembled in New York Harbor, and there appeared to be an opportunity to do something similar in the San Francisco Bay Area by exclusively using public lands including military installations on both sides of the Golden Gate. Within two weeks a BOR/NPS team produced a conceptual proposal. The proposal was a keystone of the administration's concept of developing national recreation areas around 13 major urban centers.
The BOR and NPS were then directed to develop a more detailed proposal, and Murray was assigned as the BOR representative on the project. There was strong congressional and administration support, exemplified by President Nixon holding a press conference on the site in 1972. The legislation authorizing Golden Gate National Recreation Area was signed two months later.
In the 1970s, Murray headed a BOR team on a special area study of the Santa Monica Mountains Area, close to Los Angeles. Initially, it was conceived as another urban national recreation area, but the emphasis evolved and shifted to conservation and preservation. The team conceptualized the project as a "Greenline Park" which was radically different from anything the BOR and NPS had done previously. The park's core was four existing state parks. The remaining area was to be protected by a wide array of land protection techniques. This pioneering effort was seen by many as a prototype for future park land protection by the NPS. In 1978, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was authorized by Congress incorporating the Greenline boundary.
These years at BOR were often a heady experience for Murray. The agency's small size and substantive responsibilities meant that he periodically interacted with senior political and management figures. He recalled, "We acted aggressively to support the conservation case, because we didn't know enough to be intimidated by those opposed to our actions." He recalled a couple of illustrative examples:
- Fort DeRussy in Honolulu was the last remaining open space on the Waikiki waterfront. The military wanted to construct a 13-story high rise in the center of the waterfront to serve their personnel in the Pacific. To seek a better solution, Murray was sent one weekend to the site to extensively film and helped present the conservation case at the White House the next week to chiefs of staff (Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman and other high ranking officials). The Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command presented the military's case, and senior economic and envirorunental advisers were present.
- On a subsequent occasion,with two BOR civilian colleagues, he entered a meeting to debate the future of Fort Mason and the Presideo with nine generals at the Pentagon.
In the mid-1970s, there was a downtum in the economy, and the special area studies mission was put on hold by the administration since such studies implied future appropriations for new parks. Murray was asked to refocus on delivering technical assistance focusing on "how to do more with less." Technical assistance was one of the functions in BOR's mission that had received relatively little attention.
In June 1978, Proposition 13 was passed in California which devastated the budgets of local park and recreation agencies. This had a galvanizing effect on the technical assistance effort. Murray was given additional staff and resources and instructed by the BOR director to develop a program to respond to the new difficult financial environment that Proposition 13 had created for park agencies. This effort led to production of a "Brown Book" series of publications that were used nationally. From 1977 to 1986, Murray's team produced 26 self-guiding handbooks, audio-visual materials, and hundreds of trainings including: Private Sector Involvement, Fees and Charges, Gift Catalogs, Contract Services, Client-Oriented Marketing, Cost Cutting Strategies, Cutback Management and Design for Maintenance. The handbooks gave specific guidance to park professionals on examples of best practice.
He hired and organized an unusually talented staff to work in the technical assistance effort. Their work anticipated the needs of the profession and introduced countless professionals to new approaches to get the job done in the field. This new set of tools and mechanisms were keys to being successful in the changed financial environment. It was a Herculean effort and met a need which no other organization was addressing. The program's dissemination was aided by Murray's team linking with the California Park and Recreation Society, National Recreation and Park Association, and other professional bodies to access their members.
When BOR (renamed the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service in 1978) was merged with the NPS in 1981, Murray's mission was to introduce these new procedures and tools into the NPS. Tensions between personnel from the two organizations, given the long-established traditions of the NPS, made this challenging, but there were successes. Murray's team started by producing the first gift catalogs for national parks. These efforts received substantial attention from the media and the Reagan Administration. His team's efforts expanded into a management efficiency program for the entire NPS, comprised of six elements: fundraising, revenue management, vollmteerism, contracting out, concessions management, and productivity enhancement. The program was supported by trainings and a quarterly publication which disseminated examples of good practice throughout the NPS. There was an effort to create "heroes" within the NPS by publicizing their successes. These best practices ultimately were distilled into a series of handbooks on topics such as employee recognition, volunteer management and fundraising.
The Administration enthusiastically supported the management efficiency program and provided over half of its funding directly from the NPS Director's office until 1986 when the program was abruptly defunded. This resulted in another career shift for Murray when he became Planning, Grants, and Environmental Quality chief for the Western Region. In this position, he supervised the preparation of general management plans and development concept plans for most of the natural parks and Special Area Studies in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii.
These are complex exercises as the numerous stakeholders vie for their perspective to be given priority in a plan. Each plan requires an intimate knowledge of the park and its operations. This position is an excellent platform from which to induce change in the NPS because in the general management plan alternative ways for managing a park can be introduced. Thus, they provide an opportunity to institutionalize Murray's earlier technical assistance work. His hands-on style ensures that he was personally involved with every park's plan.
Also, during the late 1980s, the NPS grew its Rivers and Trails Program, and Murray was asked to build a regional program from scratch. Murray's team created definitive materials and on the ground efforts to establish trails and protected stream and river corridors. One result was four editions of the Economic Impacts of Parks, Rivers, Trails, and Greenways handbook.
At the beginning of the new millenniwn, Murray became regional partnership chief full-time, charged with advancing the culture of partnering and fundraising in the region. He engages parks in identifying their most important needs and then addresses with them how they may be met by cooperating with partners. Heavy emphasis is given to building park staff and park partners' capacity to grow philanthropy to parks, including major capital campaigns.
Murray's other accomplishments include:
- Playing a key role in 1993-94 in brokering a National Park Service-California State Park state-wide 13 multi-park cluster partnership that became a national prototype. This multi-agency management approach served as a model for the California Desert Parks Planning and Managers Group when the California Desert Protection Act was passed in 1994.
- Being centrally involved in establishing Rosie the Riveter/World War II National Historic Park, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, and in coordinating improvements for readying the War-in-the-Pacific National Memorial and the American Memorial in Saipan for their 50th commemorations.
- Development of a regional tourism policy, and drafting and updating the NPS's tourism policy. He subsequently served on the California Cultural and Heritage Tourism Council.
- A founding role in the Pacific States Revenue Management School in San Diego, and the California Roundtable for Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. He has helped the Roundtable convene conferences on visitor capacity management and connecting parks to people. Murray was a founding member of the New Games Foundation and served on the board of the American Adventure Play Association. He is on the board of the Berkeley Society for Preservation of Traditional Music.
- Serving as a trainer, presenter and coordinator for over 275 conferences, trainings, symposiums,and workshops throughout the United States, Canada,and Australia.
The effectiveness of his lifelong role of internal consultant, trainer and technical advisor has been recognized by numerous awards including the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award. Murray is resilient, optimistic, and persistent. There have been many shifts in his career, but whatever the context his credo has been "How can we best add value." He has always been inspired by success and best practices at all levels of government and the private sector wherever they occur. Developing and disseminating examples of best practice which others could follow has been his career's work. On some occasions this took the form of collecting information, synthesizing, and distributing it widely. In other roles, it involved developing new templates on how to address particular issues.
Murray's colleagues comment on his rare ability to view problems in the context of the big picture and the longer term. His long and effective career he attributes to "having been fortunate enough to have been in situations where I have been able to have an influence and to make a difference." That appears to be the key to his sustained enthusiasm and passion over a 40-year career in parks and conservation in the federal government.