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Longtime Utah parks boss remembered as firm but calm

Published September 27, 2013 7:36 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pete Parry rarely, if ever, talked about his accomplishments as the superintendent of Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Natural Bridges National Monument, but people still remember them.

Parry, a 30-year National Park Service employee, including 12 managing those Utah units, died in his sleep Thursday morning in Moab. He would have turned 82 on Oct. 6.

"I certainly had heard his name before I started; Pete was part of the old guard," said Paul Henderson, who started with Arches and Canyonlands national parks 15 years ago and now serves as the assistant superintendent. "While he was here Canyonlands went under some really serious threats, including a bombing range and a nuclear-waste dump."

Parry helped stave off those threats, and many others, with a firm but reasonable approach, which earned him the respect of those he dealt with.

"He was not a super­intendent who went hollering off to the regional office on minor things," Henderson said. "He was very effective working with the community even with people who absolutely opposed him. You never heard of people accusing him of being outrageous or out of line. They just agreed to disagree with him. The credibility factor was huge there."

An autographed copy of Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang" sits in Parry's Moab home. The inscription states well the issues Parry faced at a time when the idea of protecting resources from outsiders was running headlong into a mostly unregulated world.

"To Pete Parry: A good man in a tough job, Ed Abbey."

Parry held the superintendent job from 1975 to 1987 but remained involved with the parks after his retirement. Typically he was the first one to visit a new superintendent upon his or her arrival.

Retirement did little to slow Parry down. He was vital in developing the Moab Information Center, a one-stop information venue to serve the exploding number of tourists.

Kimber Parry was born after her grandfather retired from the park service, but she heard about his efforts from the community.

"He wasn't one to talk about his accomplishments, but he had a ton of them," she said. "People walk up to me all the time and say 'your grandpa did this, your grandpa did that.' I'm so proud of his work in the parks and so proud of his work in the community."

A memorial service will be held in Moab in late October when Parry's family and friends can gather to celebrate his life.

brettp@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman