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State parks administrator gets feet wet

by Kurt Hildebrand, Appeal Staff Writer

Nevada’s new state parks administrator wrapped up his first week in a job he has prepared for during his entire 30-year career.

Dave Morrow, 54, was formerly Utah deputy parks director. He took over for Wayne Perock, who retired after eight years in the position.

Born in Provo, Utah, Morrow says he decided he wanted to work in parks at a young age under the influence of a family friend.

“We had a very close family friend involved in parks and wildlife management,” he said. “Growing up around that, I had the desire to get a degree in something that would let me work in parks.”

Morrow’s family moved to Southern California, where he lived in several places from the beach to the San Fernando Valley before his 1967 graduation from high school in Canoga Park.

He attended San Diego State, where he graduated in 1972 with dual majors in parks and recreation and public administration.

“The first day I went to work, the director asked me what what my career goal was,” he said. “I told him I want to be a director of a state park system.”

Once set on his path, Morrow climbed up the ranks in the Utah state park system.

“I started in Utah after I graduated as a park ranger, then I became a park manager, then managed several parks as a region manager,” he said.

After reaching the level of deputy director, Morrow said, it was time for the next step.

“The opportunity came up here in Nevada,” he said. “I had visited some of the parks, and working in the West was huge interest of mine.”

Morrow’s wife, Heidi, is a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher. He has two children — 25-year-old Chris, a horticulturalist, and a daughter, Casey, 21, who was named after the man who sparked Morrow’s interest in park work.

“We are renting in Carson City, and it is our plan to buy a home in the spring after my wife finishes up her contract,” he said.

In his first week, Morrow has visited several Northern Nevada state parks, including Sand Harbor, Mormon Station, Dayton and Washoe Lake.

“I’m working on my plans to visit the other regions of the state,” he said.

Morrow said that so far he has found the department’s staff to be busy and enthusiastic.

“You can walk into a new job and what you hear is all the complaints,” he said. “That has not been the case here at all. It has been very much the opposite. I haven’t talked to anyone yet, who doesn’t have three different assignments. But they are enthusiastic and dedicated and interested in what’s happening.”

The opening of two new parks — the Dangberg Home Ranch in Minden and the Van Sickle Bi-state park at Stateline — will be on the front burner, Morrow said.

The other priority will be finding new ways to fund the state parks system.

“Funding and marketing of state parks is critical,” Howard said. “I believe that Nevada State Parks have a number of great parks, a number of wonderful opportunities. We need to be looking for ways to market what we have.”