Bob Garrison was heavily involved with wildlife-watching organizations and co-wrote a hiking guide.

Obituary: Bob Garrison educated public about California wildlife and habitats

Published: Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 - 6:30 am

Bob Garrison was the perfect volunteer to lead Boy Scouts' nature trips as outdoor activities chairman for Troop 13 in Newcastle.

He was a nationally recognized leader in creating programs to educate people about wildlife and habitats. On trail hikes, he could name any plant species he crossed and identify animals from their droppings.

He was an Eagle Scout and role model for Scout traits: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly and courteous. Before leading a group of boys to a Mendocino County summer camp last weekend, he asked that the money for his trip expenses be used instead to pay for travel scholarships for Scouts.

"We gave out five separate scholarships," said David Eggert of Troop 13. "When you think about what an Eagle Scout is, that was Bob."

An influential figure in the natural resources community, Mr. Garrison died Sunday in a multi-vehicle pileup while driving to Camp Wente, a Boy Scouts campground near Willits. He was 55.

Officials said he was killed when the Honda Odyssey he was driving with five Scouts on Highway 20 in Mendocino County was struck head-on by a Ford pickup and then on the side by a Dodge truck. The Scouts – including Mr. Garrison's 15-year-old son Sean – and drivers of two other vehicles were hospitalized.

Mr. Garrison devoted himself to sharing his love and knowledge of nature with others. As a manager at the state Department of Fish and Game in the 1990s, he led efforts to create interpretive programs to educate visitors about California's rich diversity of wildlife and habitats.

He was a leader in the California Watchable Wildlife Project, a network of nature areas and centers that promotes viewing and recreational activities related to fish and wildlife. He was on the national board of Watchable Wildlife Inc. and started a consulting business that was contracted to create a state wildlife viewing program for Hawaii.

He co-authored "Northern California Nature Weekends," a popular hiking guide, with nature writer Jeanne Clark. Since 2007, he was director of the Utility Exploration Center, a public learning center in Roseville focused on natural resources, renewable energy and sustainable practices.

"Bob was a huge leader in wildlife and nature preservation," Clark said. "He was so deeply committed to this, and he inspired so many other people to get involved."

Born on Sept. 5, 1957, in Vancouver, Canada, Robert Wayne Garrison immigrated and settled with his parents in the Bay Area. His mother was a school food service worker, and his father retired as a typesetter at the San Francisco Chronicle.

He fell in love with nature in Scouting, graduated from high school in San Leandro and studied natural resources and wildlife biology at Humboldt State University. He settled in Sacramento and spent his early career as an interpretive naturalist for the Sacramento Science Center and California State Parks.

Mr. Garrison was married since 1980 to Lisa, who is chief financial officer of the state Franchise Tax Board. An expert handyman, he owned and renovated homes in the midtown and Curtis Park neighborhoods of Sacramento before moving to Newcastle. He was on the board of the Placer Nature Center in Auburn.

Colleagues recalled a warm, upbeat man with a genuine love of the outdoors and a talent for explaining the beauty and importance of nature. In addition to building bridges among public and private natural resources agencies, he organized professional workshops and mentored many interpretive experts.

"We all need to become eco-evangelists," he told The Bee in 2009.

Besides his wife and son, he is survived by his brother, Steven of Vacaville; and mother, Joan, of Sacramento.

A private service is being planned. Memorial donations may be made to the Placer Nature Center, 3700 Christian Valley Road, Auburn, CA 95602; or the Bob Garrison Scholarship Fund for Boy Scouts Troop 13, in care of First U.S. Community Credit Union, 424 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn, CA 95603.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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