Maurice K. Goddard State Park – What’s Behind the Name? (Part 1 of 2)

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II


I don’t know about you, but chances are pretty high you had to take Pennsylvania history at some point, if you graduated from high school, here in the Commonwealth. The academic curriculum I fell under made PA history our required social studies course during eighth grade. We went over a lot that school year, from Pre-European colonization up until the present (which at the time was 1976-77), but there was still a signifi cant amount of PA history we didn’t cover, simply because there wasn’t enough time. One name that I don’t ever recall coming up in our 8th grade class was Maurice K. Goddard. In fact, I can’t recall being exposed to the work of M.K. Goddard, here in PA, until I was a student at Penn State working on my bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Science. Now, unless you took an environmental science class where the teacher tied in PA history or you are somewhat of a history buff who does a signifi cant amount of reading, you’re probably like most other folks in our area; you’ve seen the signs for Maurice K. Goddard State Park in Mercer County and possibly even visited the park; but have no idea who the man was that the park is named after. Please allow me to introduce you to Maurice K. Goddard. Born in Massachusetts in 1912, M. K. Goddard lived in both the U.S. and Canada during his formative years. His family settled in Portland, Maine and he graduated from the University of Maine in 1935 with a B.S. in forestry. After college, he obtained a teaching position at the Mont Alto School of Forestry in Southcentral PA. After teaching 2-years, he went west in 1938 to the University of California at Berkeley, where he achieved his master’s degree in Forestry. With the outbreak of World War II, like millions of his peers, he entered military service, ascending to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army while working on the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the war, he returned to teaching at the Mont Alto School of Forestry and was soon selected for a position at Penn State University, Main Campus. During his tenure at Penn State, he formulated plans for the future development of state parks within the Commonwealth. In 1954, PA Governor-elect George M. Leader consulted with Penn State’s M. K. Goddard regarding what he should be looking for in his cabinet appointment as the new Secretary of the PA Dept. of Forests and Waters. After listening to Goddard’s input, Governor Leader soon realized he had found an individual with the knowledge, vision, and leadership for the position and appointed Maurice K. Goddard to his cabinet. M.K. Goddard’s vision was to establish a PA state park within 25-miles of every PA resident. His insight and credibility transcended politics, as he went on to serve as a cabinet offi cer for six consecutive PA Governors, both Democrats and Republicans, from 1955 until 1979. From 1955-1970, his title was Secretary of the PA Department of Forests and Waters, and following a governmental agency name change, he was the Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Resources from 1970-1979. Under his 24-year tenure, the Commonwealth created 45 additional PA state parks and ascended to the point where it had, and still has, one of the most preeminent state park systems within the entire United States. M.K. Goddard’s lifelong goal of having a state park within 25-miles of every PA resident is very close to being achieved. Today, there are 121 PA state parks spread across the Commonwealth, encompassing some 283,000 acres and serving 36-million visitors each year. Think about it. We have McConnells Mill State Park here in Lawrence County. Adjacent Beaver County has Raccoon Creek State Park and Butler County has Moraine State Park. While to our north, Mercer County proudly has Maurice K. Goddard State Park. Now that you know something about its hard-working, visionary namesake, next week, we’ll explore the many outdoor opportunities 2,856-acre Maurice K. Goddard State Park has to offer visitors since it fi rst opened in 1972. God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors!

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