Mary Wright: A Trailblazing Woman and Lifelong Advocate for State Parks

The League's own Mary Wright is a great example of character, courage and commitment!
The League’s own Mary Wright is a great example of character, courage and commitment!

As a child, Mary Wright, a former Save the Redwoods League Board of Directors member, enjoyed long camping trips. Every summer, her parents would pull into a state or national park and let her choose from the long list of activities that were typically offered in the 1950s and 1960s. “I probably went on two or three nature walks every single day,” she said. “And I loved going to the campfire programs.”

Inspired by those trips, she decided she wanted to become a park ranger. Her dream did not come true immediately, however. A high school guidance counselor told her (accurately at the time) that park ranger jobs were not open to women. But she was determined, and after a degree and a few years’ experience in public health administration, she made her way back to parks in 1976.

She began by directing a staff-training center for California State Parks. Five years later, she became the state parks’ first female park superintendent. In charge of the Monterey District, she found “a back-door way of becoming what I had hoped to be back in high school,” she said. Eventually, Wright rose to Chief Deputy State Parks Director, overseeing a $2.1 billion park bond program, the largest park bond in U.S. history.

After she retired from state parks, Wright joined the Save the Redwoods League Board of Directors. “I had worked with a large number of nonprofit groups,” she said, “and the League stood out as being a committed and effective partner.”

Wright continues to keep an eye on California State Parks, which manage most of the state’s old-growth redwood groves. Due to budget cuts over several decades, visitors can’t expect the same kinds of experiences she had as a child, she said, but Save the Redwood League is stepping in to help, thanks to our members’ generous support. In Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for example, the League has raised funds for restoration of a trail in destroyed by erosion after a recent forest fire. The trail leads to a waterfall and a beautiful redwood grove.

“Through supporting effective state park partners such as Save the Redwoods League, we can all make a meaningful difference,” Wright said.

About the author

Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected and restored redwood forests and connected people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.

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