In December, 2015, former UMBS Associate Director Mark Paddock quietly donated 50 acres of land to the Biological Station. It is a gift that perfectly embodies both Paddock’s affection for the station and his life-long work in conservation. "This is an extraordinarily generous gift and a wonderful legacy of Mark's and Ruth's many contributions to the Biological Station since they arrived in 1971,” says UMBS Director Knute Nadelhoffer.
The property lies south of Paddock’s home on Douglas Lake Road. It is bounded on 3 sides by Biological Station land, with the UMBS Stream Lab and the Maple River to its west. It contains a meadow, an old orchard, two pine plantations and 10-15 acres of forest. It also has “Ruthie’s Rock,” a memorial to Paddock’s beloved wife of 61 years who died in 2013.
Paddock says he began thinking seriously about this land gift to UMBS in the wake of Ruth’s death. They had owned the property since 1978 and lived there year-round since 1997. “In the winter, we skied daily from ten in the morning until lunch. In the spring and fall, we’d take hikes. We biked in the summer,” Paddock says. “We were so engrossed with and loved the property. It is a part of us.”
When Paddock decided to make a gift of the 50 acres, it included 47 acres with a conservation easement placed there in 2000 by Mark and Ruth. Paddock extended the easement to cover all 50 acres. "It will remain the way it was for us," He says.
“The symbolism of this gift is tremendous,” says Nadelhoffer. “And more tangibly, it reduces fragmentation of our biological reserve by better connecting our Cheboygan and Emmet County lands. Importantly, it prevents development of a prized meadow and forest tract in perpetuity."
Origins of a conservationist
A proud native of Eastern Iowa, Paddock had a “free-range” childhood. His love of the out-of-doors was shaped by exploring the very nearby Mississippi River and beloved Cedar Creek with with his brother, sister and friends. His connection was enhanced by summers at a sleep-away YMCA camp whose primative ruggedness would fail modern-day risk management scrutiny.
But it was during college, at the University of Colorado, that Mark fell in love: first with the Rocky Mountains while working as a summer park ranger, then with fellow undergraduate Ruth Knuths, who quickly became his muse, companion and wife.
While in graduate school at Colorado, Mark worked for the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (now INSTAAR) both on the Boulder campus and at its field station, Mountain Research Station. INSTAAR shaped Paddock’s future in three important ways. First, as Chief of Operations and Facilities at the Mountain Research Station he gained valuable experience in life at field stations and their management.
Second, INSTAAR was where Paddock brokered his first land preservation agreement. He says he was heavily involved in getting the U.S. Forest Service to designate “many hundreds of acres in the Roosevelt National Forest, especially up on the Niwot Ridge alpine tundra site, as a special use for research for the station.”
Finally, it was at INSTAAR that Paddock first met and worked with Dr. David Gates, then a Colorado faculty member. The two became a highly regarded and effective administrative duo that lasted more than 20 years.
When the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) recruited Gates to be its director in 1965, Gates accepted only on the condition that could bring his own Assistant Director, Paddock, with him. Thus Mark, Ruth and their young family -- children Mark, Todd and Meredith were all on the scene by then -- moved from Boulder to St. Louis.
Building a legacy in Missouri
As Paddock’s career developed, so too did his list of conservation achievements. He co-founded the St. Louis Coalition for the Environment (now the Missouri Coalition for the Environment) in 1969. Its first major effort was opposing a housing development -- ironically named Earth City -- that was unwisely sited for construction in the Missouri River floodplain. The coalition eventually won a seminal ruling from the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals preserving the land between the Earth City levee and the Missouri River and prohibiting development below the high water mark without a federal permit.
Meanwhile, at the MBG, Paddock was drawn to the organization’s 1600 acre Arboretum. “It had been put to sleep due to lack of funds for about 10 years,” Paddock says. He thought it had tremendous potential as an ecological nature reserve.
In 1969, Paddock began developing his vision for the Arboretum. He partnered with The Nature Conservancy and others to add additional parcels, totalling 600 acres, to it. The MBG’s 1970 Annual Report notes, “This protective action came at a time when developers are acquiring numerous holdings in the area to accommodate the westward sprawl of St. Louis. The Arboretum now can protect nearly three miles of the scenic Meremec River for enjoyment and study.”
The U.S. Secretary of the Interior designated the Arboretum (now named The Shaw Nature Reserve) a National Environmental Education Landmark in 1972. It was only the 16th site in the country to receive this recognition for “notable outdoor classrooms.”
Leaving his mark on Northern Michigan
Paddock was no longer in St. Louis by the time the Arboretum received its federal accolades and the Coalition for the Environment won its legal victories. He had recently followed Gates to a new administrative position at the University of Michigan Biological Station.
The Gates-Paddock era at UMBS began in 1971. It was marked by renewed institutional vigor in research, teaching and outreach. Paddock brought his passion for land protection to Northern Michigan. When a logger finally agreed to sell 350 acres of old-growth hardwood on Burt Lake's northwest shore, Paddock teamed with protege and UMBS alumna Wendy O’Neil, the Michigan Nature Conservancy and the newly formed Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) to raise the $1.25 million asking price. In 1986, LTC transferred ownership of the precious property, now Colonial Point Forest, to UMBS. It has been a research and teaching treasure ever since.
Over the course of Paddock’s 20-year tenure at UMBS he found a second home -- and second family on the shores of Douglas Lake. “My position at the Biological Station was exceedingly important to me and my family," he wrote in his memoir, The Main Thing is to Get A-Going. "We loved living and working in the North Woods in a nice log cabin each summer with people we liked.”
Former students and colleagues reciprocate this adoration. In the dedication (to Paddock) of The University of Michigan Biological Station: 1909-1983; Diamond Jubilee Edition it says, “It is not easy for outsiders to appreciate the enormous contribution Mark has made to the Station. The position he holds is unsung and often unrewarded.” Some measure of recognition came when Paddock retired from UMBS in 1991. Alumni and friends created the Mark and Ruth Paddock Habitat Fund, an endowment which continues to grow and fund UMBS land purchases and management.
In recent years, Paddock has stayed involved with local conservation efforts through board memberships in the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, which he co-founded in 1975, the Little Traverse Conservancy, and the Douglas Lake Improvement Association (DLIA). He was very active with the latter group in the acquisition by the University of 40 acres of North Fishtail Bay shoreline formerly known as Camp Knight
Paddock also remains engaged with the Biological Station. He is one of the Bug Camp Stewards, a volunteer corps of UMBS friends and neighbors Paddock organized in the late ‘90s to help the station with property management projects. He visits the camp office weekly and remains a tremendous source of knowledge about and guidance for the station. In 2008 Paddock joined the UMBS External Advisory Board as a founding member. He still serves on the board.
“We are all deeply grateful to Mark and the Paddock family for this valuable gift of land," says Nadelhoffer. For Paddock, it was a no-brainer: “I have been involved in protecting land all my life."