Alumni Spotlight: Donald Bock, Class of 1954

Donald Bock Class of 1954 Colorado A&M School of Forestry, Forest Recreation Major
Donald Bock, forest recreation, 54’, recalled many outdoor adventures in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Accompanied by his best friend, Al Spencer (also a CSU alum), Bock collected snakes, spiders, mice, and turtles, among other wild creatures. This early interest in nature foreshadowed his choice of higher education. After his freshman year at the University of Omaha, Bock was accepted into the Colorado A&M School of Forestry and started classes in the fall of 1950.

During the summer of 1951, Bock enjoyed participating in the Forestry Summer Camp at Pingree Park, now known as the CSU Mountain Campus. Later he joined the advanced Reserve Officers Training Corps. He especially remembers Professor J.V.K. Wagar as a mentor who instilled a conservation-based environmental ethic in the forestry students whose lives he touched.

During the summer breaks of 1952 and 1953 Don worked as a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone National Park. He was stationed at the historic Lake Ranger Station, and recalls an interesting experience when Horace Albright, the second Director of the National Park Service (and former Superintendent of Yellowstone), stormed into the station while Bock was manning the front desk. Albright was “mad as a hornet” that the ranger at Yellowstone’s south entrance failed to recognize him and asked him to pay the $3 entrance fee. Bock recognized Albright immediately, and made a point of repeating his name several times while assuring the Director that the rangers of Yellowstone did in fact know his identity. His efforts helped smooth Albright’s ruffled feathers, and the Director left Lake Ranger Station in a much calmer frame of mind.

Following seasonal employment as a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer of 1954, Bock graduated from Colorado A&M with a degree in Forest Recreation and the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. As the only seasonal ranger at the Grand Lake entrance with a full uniform, he frequently found himself lending items of clothing to the other seasonal employees. He relates, “Almost every day when I was off shift, someone would borrow my hat, belt, or tie. At least I did not have to loan out my pants!” The living quarters at Grand Lake were primitive; Bock lived in a cabin with a dirt floor and no electricity.

In October of 1954, Bock reported for active duty and ordnance school at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Three months later he flew to Germany for duty near Nurnberg. His assigned duties included oversight of the Ordnance Inspection Unit and roving inspection team, as well as roles as Evacuation Officer, Escort Officer, and Scoutmaster to a group of the sons of U.S. officers stationed there. During his service in Europe, Bock met Anne Huson of Seattle, who became his wife in 1956.

Bock and Huson returned to Fort Collins in January of 1957 and Bock completed two quarters of study toward a graduate degree in Forest Recreation.

In 1957, CSU forestry students were actively recruited by officials from the US Forest Service regional office in Denver, and Bock accepted a position as Recreation Forester for the Gunnison and Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre National Forests. His work involved the initiation of Operation Outdoors, the first fully-planned and funded recreation improvement program for national forests since the Civilian Conservation Corps.

In June of 1958, Bock was given the opportunity to move from Gunnison to Delta and concentrate his efforts on the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre National Forests. During his five years as Recreation Forester for Grand Mesa – Uncompahgre, Don supervised the design and construction of recreation sites, including the first information center on Grand Mesa. He also illustrated the publication, Forest Progress Reports and led a National Forest recreation site survey.
 In May of 1963, Bock was transferred to the Arapaho National Forest office in Golden, where his duties included recreation planning, design, and construction during the time that Dillon Reservoir was filled. Two years later, Bock left the USFS to work for the Denver office of the new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. In August of 1965, Bock was assigned to the Black Hills Area Resources Study and worked with the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies.

By 1967, Bock had been reassigned to chair the Recreation Task Force on the Missouri River Basin Interagency Study, with members from various federal and state agencies. Bock’s favorite assignment of his career came in 1969, when he served as Liaison Officer to the state of Nebraska for Land and Water Conservation Fund projects.

During the 1970s, Bock worked in a variety of positions, including Chief of the Division of Interpretation and Administrative Services and EEO Investigator for the USDI. He worked on BOR water resource studies (including the first Two Forks Dam proposal) and the region’s first Wild and Scenic River study (of the Dolores River), as well as leading the Green-Yampa Wild and Scenic River study.Bock commented that these river studies were not popular with the public, except in Denver. At one public meeting, an opponent of the studies proposed that Bock be given a one-way ticket to Russia. Ultimately, the Delores, Green, and Yampa rivers were not recommended for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System.

Legislation enacted in March of 1978 transferred Bock and all the regional river studies to the National Park Service. During the 1980s, Bock supervised the design and construction of campgrounds and water systems in Washington State and northern California, conducted Wild and Scenic River studies in West Virginia and New York, and made general management plan field trips to western national parks.

Since his 1988 retirement from federal service, Bock stays busy with educational activities, community service, and travel. In 2004, he discovered the NPS-sponsored Trails and Rails program for the California Zephyr passenger train. He began working as a volunteer train guide on Zephyr trips between Denver and Grand Junction, telling stories to the passengers about the history of the natural and cultural areas they viewed through the train windows. Bock loved this program, and by 2010 he had been designated as Deputy Coordinator for the Denver Trails and Rails crew.

In 2013, Bock contributed to the Pingree Park Collection of CSU’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive. In addition to donating his own memoirs, Bock has actively recruited other WCNR alumni who are NPS and USFS retirees to submit stories about their career experiences to the Archive.

 Posted September 30, 2015