Richard James Stenmark
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June 5, 1931 - December 23, 2013
Richard passed away at Hope West Hospice Care Center in Grand Junction, CO on December 23, 2013, from Multiple Myeloma, at the age of 82.
Born and raised in South Denver, CO; he graduated from Colorado A&M college (CSU Ft. Collins) in 1954 with a degree in Forest Management. He was drafted into the US Army 27th infantry Regiment 1954-56. After discharge he began a 37-year career as a National Park Ranger, starting at Rocky Mountain National Park. He also served at Grand Teton NP, Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, and Yosemite NP. His last 19 years as a Ranger were spent at Mt. McKinley National Park (Denali NP) in Alaska where he retired in 1989 as Deputy Regional Director of the Alaska Region National Park Service.
One of his favorite activities was mountain climbing. He climbed all the 14ers in Colorado, and other western state high mountains, and in Mexico and Hawaii. In May 1961 he reached the summit of Mt. McKinley via the West Buttress route with John Graham and 2 Swiss mountaineers. He was an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club since high-school days, were he met his wife, Helen.
As one of the first NPS rangers and early climbers to summit the mountain (Mt. McKinley), he developed thoughts on appropriate expansion of Mt. McKinley National Park. In 1969 he was assigned by Secretary of Interior Walter Hickel to head an Advisory Committee involved in the protection of existing National Parks and federal lands in Alaska during the implementation of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act (ANILCA) following Alaska Statehood. He started compiling a list of potential new and expanded park lands, traveling around the state to consult with native tribes and Alaska conservationists.
In 1970 he urged NPS Director George Herzog and Subcommittee Chairman Senator Alan Bible (NV) to make a field trip to Alaska and see what was at stake. This led to the formation of the Joint Federal - State Land Use Planning commission for Alaska, inventory of known resources, and a map of the land areas proposed for protection and conservation units.
In 1974 Mr. Stenmark's services and knowledge were offered to the US House of Representatives and US Senate as they developed legislation regarding the proposed national interest lands. He was instrumental in the expansion of Mt. McKinley National Park to include its southern side and the glaciers radiating from the Mountain, as well as other scenic mountains, valleys and wildlife habitats in the Alaska Range. Richard's knowledge and skills were the key to the success for the new and expanded Alaska National Parks under ANILCA. On December 2, 1980, President Carter signed ANILCA into law.
Richard supported adopting the Native name "Denali" (the High One) for Mt. McKinley and the Park, which was accomplished.
He assisted with operations of the expanded national park system in Alaska until his retirement as Deputy Regional Director in 1989. He had resided in Grand Junction since 1992.
He is survived by his wife, Helen; three daughters, Kristen Baker, CA, Karina Simmers, Anchorage, AK, Maren Stenmark, WA; 3 sisters Coral Loy, Thelma Perkin, and Linda Horowitz, and 4 grandchildren.
Published in The Daily Sentinel on Dec. 31, 2013