RPA started out as the Regional Parks Natural History Association, an unincorporated association which was organized November 25, 1947. Many of the individuals who formed this organization were very well-respected in the environmental community: Herbert Mason, Esther Marhenke, Emmanuel Fritz and A. Starker Leopold.
On September 12, 1949 these same individuals formed a non-profit corporation, which they called the Regional Parks Association to serve as “an educational, scientific and literary corporation, organized for the public preservation of forests and natural scenery, and for similar public purposes.”
Those founders believed that it is vital to foster a balance of uses in the park system, including the preservation of park lands in their natural condition or their restoration to such a condition.
Herbert Mason – Professor Emeritus of Botany, Director of the Herbarium at UC Berkeley. He was editor of Madrono, Journal of the California Botanical Society. He was strongly influenced by and became a major player in the group of Bay Area biologists and Earth scientists who engaged in the interdisciplinary discussions and activities that led to creation of the still-active biosystematists group and the origin of the field of biosystematics itself.
Emanuel Fritz – Professor Emeritus of Forestry, UC Berkeley. He was often referred to as Mr. Redwood. Fritz was recognized internationally for many years as the leading authority on redwood forestry, through his work he built the foundations of our present understanding of redwood forestry. The Council for the Society of American Foresters honored him with the Gifford Pinchot Medal award for his contributions
A.Starker Leopold – Starker Leopold was the oldest son of the well known ecologist Aldo Leopold, who was commonly known as father of wildlife ecology. He had a long advisory association with the National Park Service, which began in 1962 and ended due to his death in 1983. He is probably best known for the Leopold Report, written by himself as chairman, together with his colleagues, on several advisory committees to the secretary of the interior. The first of these reports, Wildlife Management in the National Parks (1963), proved to be a landmark for the National Park Service.
Richard M. Leonard – Leonard served on the board of directors of the Sierra Club in various capacities including president during the years 1938-1972. In 1973 he received the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award, which is the organization’s highest award honoring a distinguished record of leadership in national or international conservation causes. Leonard was also well known for his advancement of mountaineering techniques, many of which are still used extensively today.
Sixty seven years later, the RPA board continues the goals of those founders, and RPA board members over the years have been strong leaders like Harlan Kessel and Hulet Hornbeck after their retirement from EBRPD and other well known Bay Area conservationists.