Franklin E. Parker III, 82, the first chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, whose pioneering conservation work was honored with a vast Pinelands preserve bearing his name, died of heart failure Friday at his home.
Mr. Parker, who lived in Mendham, Morris County, was named head of the commission in 1979, a year after Congress passed legislation creating the 1.1 million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, which experts consider one of the world's most ecologically significant locations.
His dedication was honored in 2004 when a 9,400-acre Burlington County wildlife preserve of lush former cranberry bogs and rare stands of Atlantic white cedar was named the Franklin Parker Preserve.
The land was acquired by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which Mr. Parker helped found and which he led from 1965 to 1968.
Former Gov. Jim Florio, who pushed the Pinelands legislation while serving in the U.S. House, remembered Mr. Parker as a "wonderful man, very quiet, very dignified, very much committed to preserving the Pinelands."
"He was there at a very raucous time, but he always kept his good manner, and that eventually helped change the temper of the times," Florio said yesterday. "People began to accept and understand the Pinelands, and it was to his credit and his good manner that they did."
A native New Yorker who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., Mr. Parker earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University. After serving in the Navy in World War II and the Korean War, he graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. He practiced law for 38 years as a partner with Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler in New York.
Mr. Parker joined the conservation movement in the late 1950s when he and other Morris County residents organized to fight a plan to build a regional jetport over a wetlands and wildlife habitat. The land was spared and eventually became the 7,600-acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
After cofounding the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, he served on the boards of numerous land-preservation organizations. He opened the Trust for Public Land's New Jersey office, and in recent years was active with its Newark-based Parks for People project.
In 1978, Congress designated more than a million acres in seven southern New Jersey counties as the Pinelands National Reserve, affording federal protection even to private land.
Gov. Brendan Byrne appointed Mr. Parker to lead the fledgling Pinelands Commission to devise and implement a land-use plan to protect the region's natural, cultural and historic resources.
Mr. Parker led the agency through its contentious early days and developed the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, which the Legislature adopted in 1981. He remained with the agency until 1988.
Mr. Parker enjoyed sailing in Buzzards Bay, Maine, and hiking everywhere, in the Garden State and as far off as Scotland. He shared his love of nature with his family, his son John said, and instilled in them the importance of caring about the environment.
Mr. Parker is also survived by his wife of 53 years, Margaret Parsons Parker; sons Franklin and Thomas; daughters Alice Flint, Margaret and Polly; and 15 grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at noon today at the Episcopal Church of St. John on the Mountain, 379 Mount Harmony Rd., Bernardsville, N.J. Burial will be private.