"We've got the whole world in our hands"

“A Clarity of Vision”

A Celebration of Life Tribute

Robert S. Chandler

was held on

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stay tuned to watch a DVD from the afternoon long Tribute

held at King Gillette Ranch

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

For a program, contact ruthkilday@aol.com


A Clarity of Vision ~ A Brilliant Career

A Letter from the Chandler Tribute Committee

“His legacy will continue.”

Bob Chandler became our mentor and our friend. He shared his calm nature and his sly wry humor with us. He will forever be in our hearts. For those whose lives he touched in the National Park Service and our partners, his impact will continue in our professional and personal lives. His legacy will continue.

National Park Directors recognized Bob as a unique leader who could handle the challenges of new urban parks in the Santa Monica Mountains and at the Presidio of San Francisco. He was just as innovative in resolving resource problems in traditional parks where he served at Olympic, the Everglades, in the Grand Canyon., and other sites listed.

He enjoyed these challenges. He had an uncanny ability to get things done while engaging with constituents, community groups, and with his staff. All of us will miss him.

Please address your comments to Bob's family and friends. Add your memories, the lessons you learned from him, and photos or memorabilia to share with all of us. Thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Follow your heart, even if you must ask for forgiveness later"

NPS Photo              Grand Canyon NP Interpretive program

Advice given the 
Grand Canyon General Management Plan team
Bob was an incredible mentor to me and to all the Grand Canyon GMP team. He made us feel like we could change the world, move the entire National Park Service in new directions, and make incredible and positive changes to a visitor's experience in Grand Canyon.

One example of Bob's guidance occurred when we were getting ready to do an extensive visitor use survey in Grand Canyon that involved bringing in many surveyors and specialists from all over the country.  We'd sent the forms in for Washington's approval but hadn't received any confirmation by the time the survey was to take place.

I asked Bob what we should do, and I'll always remember him saying,  "You must always follow you heart, even if you have to ask for forgiveness later."  We went forward and talked to hundreds of visitors, which gave us an excellent basis for future solutions.

He continued to give me inspiration and advice over the years. Most recently when I told him I was retiring, he said to "Remember to always give back for as long as you can."

He was a wonderful inspiration to me and to those all around him. I will cherish the guidance he gave me forever.

NPS Photo   Grand Canyon NP wildlife
Ann Moss
Tucson, Arizona

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Setting up the Chicago Field Office and working in the six Great Lake states

NPS Photo  
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

"O'Hare Airport would become a part of our lives...travels were numerous, sometimes adventurous..."  Grant Petersen

On May 30, 1971, the National Park Service opened a Field Office in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois.  Bob and I arrived there at that time – he from Mt. Rainier and I from Fire Island National Seashore.  The specific location was selected, in part, to be situated in the same office complex as the Secretary of the Interior’s Field Representative for the Great Lakes and to provide easy access to O’Hare Airport.  Various projects and programs would be coordinated with the Interior Field Representative.  O’Hare Airport would become a part of our lives. 

Bob was responsible for setting up the Chicago Field Office as the Assistant to the Director of the Northeast Region.  I was the Environmental Specialist/ Management Assistant.  With a realignment of regional boundaries, the office would become aligned with the Midwest Region shortly after opening and expand to a peak staff of six.  Functions of the Field Office focused primarily on providing support to newly authorized park sites; cooperative activities (today these are called partnerships) with other federal, state and local agencies; and fostering outreach programs within the six Great Lakes States.  

Consistent with his style of management and his desire to mentor, Bob insured that I participated as a full partner in numerous inter-agency studies such as the North Country National Scenic Trail study (Minnesota and Wisconsin), preparation of the master plan for the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve (Wisconsin), the Service-administered Historic and Natural National Landmarks, and environmental education outreach programs within the Great Lake states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.  

Much of Bob’s time was devoted to assisting superintendents of the newly authorized areas, in particular, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (MN and WI), Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan) and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana) with respect to their legislatively created Advisory Commissions and related issues. 

Bob was a great guy to work with and to know.  Our travels flying in and out of O'Hare were numerous, sometimes adventurous, and oftentimes provided opportunities for Bob to display a bit of his wit.  On one occasion as we sat on board a plane being heavily doused with anti-icing solution, wondering if the plane would ever – or could ever – get off the ground, we were joking about items in the morning newspaper.  Bob suddenly became quiet and, with the best poker face he could muster, looked at me and said, “Do you realize that if this plane should crash, an entire National Park Service office will be wiped out?  Should we be traveling in separate planes?” 

We also enjoyed some good laughs on the golf course (at each other’s expense AND on our own time, I would add) while becoming as familiar as possible with the resources of the Great Lakes parks. 

A favorite memory for me was a several day/night canoe trip within the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  After an eventful day, which included being dumped on by rain and Bob catching all the fish, we pitched camp for the night.  After a dinner of Bob’s fish, I went to the river bank to fetch some water.  Grasping a handful of vegetation as I leaned over the water, my hands slowly slipped along the wet grass, and I ended up in the river, evoking laughter from Bob and myself at my misfortune. 

That night it was Bob’s turn.  Always enjoying  onion chips, he brought the remainder of his bag into the tent with him.  He quickly fell asleep with the bag in hand and his head against the insect netting.  As night descended and while Bob snored, I noted a large skunk heading toward the tent.  For fear of getting us heavily sprayed, I remained perfectly still and watched as the skunk came to the tent, sniffed the onion chips and Bob’s head, and proceeded to scratch the netting.  Bob awoke with a yell, the skunk ran (without leaving any telltale scent behind), and Bob and I were reduced to unrestrained laughter!  These are just two of the enjoyable memories of working with and knowing Bob.

On March 31, 1975, Bob moved on to begin his years as Superintendent of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial leaving the legacy of a National Park Service office that had admirably fulfilled its park assistance and partnership role.  In the years that followed, we would cross paths at training courses, while on details,  and at conferences.  Conversations would often evoke memories of our humorous adventures, the projects – and especially the people associated with them – as well as the happenings of our respective growing families.

In remembering Bob, my wife, Donna, and I extend to Mitzi and the family our condolences, thoughts and prayers.

Grant Petersen, Munising, Michigan
Retired as Superintendent, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, MI

NPS Photo         St. Croix River bridge

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"An eye-gouging, mud-wrestling arena" in the Everglades and South Florida

By Mike Soukup

NPS Photo
Everglades National Park
 Pine Rockland
In 1990 rumor had it that Mike Finley’s replacement as Superintendent of Everglades National Park would be a mender of fences.  Those in the field always tend to read great implications into decisions from Washington, much like reading great meaning into Beatle’s album covers.   Park staffs crave a grand strategy and logic behind the selection of new superintendents.  With the selection of Bob Chandler, the rumor and strategy both proved spot on.

The Everglades and South Florida had long been an eye-gouging, mud-wrestling arena where the NPS was losing big, and the park was failing.  Superintendent Mike Finley had boldly turned up the volume and possibly turned the tide when he, Loxahatchee Refuge Manager Birkett Neely and Miami U. S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida for not forcing the Sugar Cane Industry to meet state water quality standards.   Such a major federal action was without precedent.  It also was without permission either from Washington or the White House. The state responded by hiring the best and meanest Washington law firm they could find.  The fight was on.  Finley was soon sent to Yosemite. 

Six months later, Bob and Mitzi Chandler appeared.  It seemed at first that this choice was a flagrant mismatch - they were so nice!   Once again, it was feared, Washington had neither a grand design nor a realistic reading of the situation in the field.  Or so it seemed.

Soon it became obvious that Bob Chandler was not only kind and disarmingly nice, but also very smart and analytical.  He understood both power and the process for using it to good ends.  He wasted no effort and pulled all the right levers.  He dealt with each person at his or her own level.  His approach and demeanor soon made him personally popular  - even with the state!  People wanted to be on his side, and his side was the park’s side. 

While the technical complexities made his eyes cross, whether it was parts per billion phosphorus in the water column or storm water treatment area uptake rates in the sediments, Bob knew when to trust and empower his technical team. He was steadfastly on the side of the resources.

Very soon the legal battle ended, the water quality problem was addressed, and the stage was set for the long, slow, and problematic march towards Everglades restoration.

During that time Mitzi was his chief advisor, ally and resource.  She was not, however, especially fond of South Florida and severe back issues hampered her search for its better qualities.  Soon they moved on to the Grand Canyon, but the Everglades was never quite the same again.

Mike Soukup
February 13, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Along the Colorado River: A trip back in time

NPS Photo                                   Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park

One of  the memorable events of my career involving Bob Chandler was in the summer of 1991.  Bob was Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.   I was the Grand Canyon Lee’s Ferry Ranger below Glen Canyon Dam.   One summer day I received a phone call from the Superintendent’s secretary. She said that Superintendent Chandler wanted to visit  Lee’s Ferry,  that Bob did not want anyone to know he was coming to Lee’s Ferry and wanted to visit a secluded part of the Colorado River.  Basically he wanted to have quality time away with his daughter Donna.

Obviously  I responded, “Sure,  no problem.”   We made arrangements,  and Bob called later to confirm the date and time. On the morning that Bob and  Donna were traveling to Lee’s Ferry, I received a phone call from his secretary frantically wanting to talk with Bob because she had received a call from National Park Service Director Ridenour.  She said the Director needed to talk with him immediately and she gave me the number. Evidently the Director was nearby in Glen Canyon.   I told her Bob had not arrived yet,  but I would give him the message.

When Bob and Donna  arrived later that morning, I relayed the message and phone number. Bob  mumbled a few words of disappointment.   He looked at me said “Tom,  you know, I never received that message!”   I looked at Bob and spontaneously  responded,  “You’re  right, I forgot what the message was!”   

The story does not end here.   As we were getting the boat ready, I received a radio call that I needed to call Glen Canyon Superintendent John Lancaster.   I quickly scurried up to the office to call Superintendent Lancaster.   He was searching for Bob and needed to talk with  him regarding the visit of Director Ridenour. I told Superintendent Lancaster that I had no idea where Bob Chandler was or his time frames for the trip.

Superintendent Lancaster asked that Bob be told that Director Ridenour wanted to talk with him.  Also, if Bob showed up at Lee’s Ferry, tell him to wait there as Director Ridenour was on the One Day float trip from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry.

When I got back to the boat and told Bob of the whereabouts of Director Ridenour and Superintendent Lancaster’s message, he was completely frustrated. He had promised his daughter this trip and was going to keep that promise.  He mumbled a few more words indicating that he had no plans to meet with Director Ridenour.   Bob then asked me if there was any possibility of encountering  the  Director.   I told him there was no way their entourage would encounter us.   I knew where the one day trips stopped and their routine schedule.   Bob exclaimed, “This is good news."

We went up river to Glen Canyon Dam and back, a total of 30 miles.     We had a great time on our trip back in time.  And most importantly,   Bob and his daughter had quality time together.   

For me this incident speaks of Bob’s character, his love and respect of family, and his care for the people who were fortunate enough to work with him. 

Tom Workman
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, CA

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Along the Backbone Trail

Thinking about Bob while hiking today~
The world is diminished
because he is gone,
and yet it's a better place
because he was here.

Ruth Taylor Kilday, Oak Park, Feb 19, 2011 
Photo taken east of Tunnel 1 on the Backbone Trail

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Called Him "Cool Hand Luke"

GGNRA photo, circa 1996
Bob Chandler, President Bill Clinton, and Brian O'Neill
with San Francisco Conservation Corps members

Remembering Bob Chandler  
An excerpt from former NPS Deputy Director Denis Galvin's letter read at the Tribute on March 5

"I used to call him ‘Cool Hand Luke’. You could send him into the center of the most heated controversies and the volume would go down, the phone calls to Washington would stop, and solutions would be found.   Bob would have people talking to each other.   And when he left the phone calls would resume, complaining that  Bob was leaving.

"When (then NPS Director) Roger Kennedy sent him to the Presidio in a new position as General Manager, there was justifiable confusion about National Park Service roles there. I went to San Francisco and spent a day with Stan Albright, Brian O’Neill, and Bob to work things out. Returning to Washington, I wrote our agreements down and sent a 'draft' back to them.   I never saw it again.   I didn’t expect to, with Bob at the center of things every thing worked out... "

Denis Galvin
McLean, Virginia
Retired Deputy Director, National Park Service

"The man who walks the mountains"

Ruth Kilday photo                            Eagle Rock, Topanga State Park, SMMNRA
     Marvin Braude, City of Los Angeles Councilman for the 11th District
     (coastal areas) from 1965 to 1997,  was always supportive of the
     Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area concept, worked  
     tirelessly with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and spent
     any and all of his leisure time in the mountains and beaches of this area.

     He referred to Bob Chandler as "the man who walks the mountains."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering Bob's first foray into Los Angeles

Memories of Alice Allen

I remember that when I was new to the NPS Field Office in Los Angeles, I found in my Roladex a card for Sue Nelson, Friends of the Santa Monica Mountains and Seashore Foundation. That was my introduction to the Santa Monica Mountains.

My introduction to Bob Chandler came when he was flown into LA to be introduced to elected officials and the Secretary of the Interior's Citizens' Advisory Commission.  During the few hours he was there, he was taken on a helicopter flight over part of the mountains.  One of the things pointed out to him was the 25,000 acres of  land between Agoura and Malibu including dozens of homes that had recently burned.  That was Bob's introduction to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Bob started small.   I doubled up two of my interns to give him a desk.  We put it in corner of my store room for privacy, and he and I shared my administrative phone line.  Bill Webb, his Deputy,  was in the store room with him, using packing boxes for his desk and chair.  Bob was gracious about the awkward situation at the Field Office, but I think it was a factor in the speed with which he moved to Woodland Hills.

The plan was that the Field Office would close once the new park office was well established.  My boss in the Region asked me where I wanted to transfer.  With the entire region to choose from, I asked to become part of the SAMO staff.  It wasn't just the idea of being part of the genesis of a new park.  I was blown away by the talent, the energy and creativity of the group of people assembled in the little office on Ventura Boulevard.  And I thought Bob was one of the most fearless people I had ever met.    I wanted to learn from him.

I think Bob found adversity motivating.  I wonder how things might have turned out if James Watt had not been named Secretary of the Interior, and if he had not loudly and publicly announced his dislike for the Santa Monica Mountains. 

Bob was instructed not to make statements to the media, but he could answer questions.  Somehow the right questions always got asked. 

He could not get funding to equip a visitor center, so he got NPS to fund information facilities in the UCLA Olympic Village, which were recycled into SAMO's visitor center. 

When the Secretary of the Interior announced his intention to de-authorize SAMO, Bob called his staff together and promised us that if we all worked together, in one year the Secretary would be singing our praises.  The Gifts Catalog was created and the most impressive gift was a donation of computers for all the divisions.  That put SAMO in the technological forefront.  The Unit Citations distributed to the staff  bore the signature of James Watt. 

Bob was informed that he could no longer accept lands acquired by state funds.  The resolution to that is best explained by Joe Edmiston.

And then there was the Inspector General's audit of our land acquisition practices.  During that audit, they discovered that the park was allowing a tenant to continue to operate a movie ranch on one of our sites.  The auditors told Bob that if he wanted to accommodate filming, his staff would have to do it.  Bob  left that meeting and passed the challenge on to the first person he saw.  That was me. 

The guidelines were simple.  If there was no precedent, no one could tell you “That's not how it's done.”  If there was no roadmap, you could go in any direction.  And if you came up against a wall, you could scale it, tunnel under it or, as we did a couple of times at Paramount Ranch, blow it up!

Being part of SAMO's Creation Generation was an amazing experience.  Bob was willing to take risks, even knowing the potential consequences.  I will always cherish being part of Bob Chandler's Creation Generation in the Santa Monica Mountains.  

Alice Allen, Ventura, CA