by Thomas "Smitty" Smith

The year was 1976. There were eight people in attendance at a special meeting called by Raleigh Young and Bill Lawrence to discuss the development of a professional park ranger association for parks in the Bay Area.

Raleigh and then SCC park ranger Bill Lawrence had discussed such an organization for several years. At the time of the first meeting Bill was a ranger with San Mateo County. The meeting was held in Raleigh’s front yard in Steven’s Creek Park, a unit of the Santa Clara County Department of Parks and Recreation as Raleigh’s wife Suzanna fed us all pizza. Beside Raleigh and Bill, there was Tom Smith West Valley College, Dave Laquerc , a National Park Service seasonal, Jerry Lawrence of Palo Alto, Ron McCall and John Henry of California State Parks, and WalterCacace of the Santa Cruz Water District.
The subject at the meeting was supposed to be centered upon the Bay Area, but after the talks began the need was obviously there to get the whole state involved. A few months prior to this meeting, West Valley College had begun an in-service training program for rangers in California. There were 60 participants at the training from all over California. At coffee breaks informal discussions had taken place that there was no organization in California that represented park rangers on a state level.

The California Park and Recreation Society and the National Park and Recreation Association had little to offer an “on the ground,” field level park employee. The organizations were mostly recreation and urban park people and all were supervisors. Park Rangers from regional, county, and federal agencies like the Corps of Engineers, had no professional voice in the state and training for rangers was almost non-existent. Raleigh and Bill’s meeting was timely.

The state park rangers were invited because both belonged to the California State Park Rangers Association (CSPRA) and we needed their guidance in where to start. PRAC also had to have a template to get started. Ron McCall had CSPRA’s Constitution and Bylaws as a guideline, but I believe that was the case. PRAC’s Constitution and Bylaws were developed at later meetings.

At the end of the meeting in Raleigh’s yard, officers were “elected” by the group. They were the following:
• Acting President, Jerry Lawrence, City of Palo Alto
• Acting Vice-President and Conference Chair, Tom Smith, West Valley College
• Acting Secretary, Walter Cacace, Santa Cruz Water District.

At the 25th anniversary of PRAC, Walt Cacace revealed that he still had copies of those minutes. The first conference in 1977 was held in San Mateo with about 50 people attending. The guest speaker at the banquet get together was Yosemite Chief Ranger Bill Wendt. There were some people outside of the Bay Area but most were local.

I do remember the discussion over who should qualify to belong to such an organization. We finally discovered that the job in many agencies was so diverse that it should be “any uniformed employee.”
An interesting upshot is that not long afterward, when I was President of PRAC, I sent the PRAC and CSPRA Constitution and Bylaws to Yellowstone to NPS Ranger Roger Rudolph. He was the secretary of a new organization being developed for federal rangers, to later become the Association of National Park Rangers. CSPRA had become the “mother” of another new park Ranger organization.

PRAC Heritage ~ How We Started
park rangers association of california