Wilds founder, former Ohio parks director dies
Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 23 July 2013 06:42

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Long-time public servant Robert Teater, an innovative conservationist who led an expansion of Ohio's state park system in the 1970s and once ran for governor, has died.

Teater died Sunday in Columbus of complications from Parkinson's Disease, his daughter-in-law Phyllis Teater told The Associated Press. He was 86.

Teater spent much of his life developing and defending unique spaces for both wildlife and humans.

He served as director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources under Republican Gov. James Rhodes from 1975 to 1983, where he acquired and developed some of Ohio's most popular parks, including Alum Creek and Maumee Bay. He also took the unusual step of developing a state park in an urban area — what became Cleveland Lakefront State Park. He made an unsuccessful bid to become the Republicans' gubernatorial nominee in 1982.

Around 1984, Teater founded The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center in Muskingum County, which sits on 10,000 acres of reclaimed strip mines. The Wilds went on to become among the largest wildlife conservation centers for endangered species in the world.

Teater and Associates was his natural resources consulting firm.

"Bob Teater was the ultimate public servant," said Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council, which Teater also helped found. "Ohioans who haven't even been born yet will one day camp and hike and hunt the parks and reserves he preserved."

The council gave Teater a lifetime achievement award in 2008, crediting him with helping protect some of Ohio's notable natural areas such as Lake Katherine, Old Woman Creek and Conkle's Hollow.

Rhodes plucked Teater from Ohio State University, where Teater had founded and was directing its first School of Natural Resources. Teater also was associate dean of Ohio State's College of Agriculture.

Denise Franz King, who worked with Teater at the Natural Resources Department, called him beloved within the department.

"Bob Teater was a leader, a teacher and like a father to many, many people," she said.

King said Teater unified the department's functions and built the professionalism of the staff.

"His approach was visionary and long term," she said.

Born Feb. 27, 1927, in Jessamine County, Ky., Robert Woodson Teater received his bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky. He and his wife Dorothy moved to Columbus in 1953 to attend graduate school at Ohio State, where he earned both master's and doctoral degrees.

The two have been visible community leaders in central Ohio for decades. Dorothy, who survives him, was a city councilwoman, Franklin County commissioner and Republican mayoral contender in Columbus, while Bob served three terms on the Columbus school board, one as president.

"Those of us who worked for Bob Teater used to joke that Bob and Dorothy were the only couple we knew with a thousand children," King said.

Bob Teater was an inductee into six Ohio halls of fame — including those for agriculture, natural resources, the National Guard and veterans. He had served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Korea in 1952 and 1953, earning honors including the Bronze Star, and retired as a major general with the Ohio Army National Guard.

Teater also served on the Ohio Historical Society board.

Other survivors include his four sons, 11 grandchildren and a sister.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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