Canton Repository

April 22, 2004

Parks group honors deeds of Regula and Ted Turner


Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — They could not be more different, the veteran congressman Ralph Regula and Ted Turner, the brash, self-made billionaire and one-time winner of the America’s Cup.

Yet they shared the distinction of being honored Wednesday night for their contributions to the national park system at a gala dinner thrown by the National Parks Conservation Association, a private, nonprofit advocacy group.

Turner, the founder of Cable News Network, the first 24-hour news channel, had the audience in stitches during a rambling discourse on his love of nature, his several marriages and the need to prevent nuclear war.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, received the William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award for what the association called his singular achievements in protecting the parks.

He is the former chairman of the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, which finances the national parks system.

The association recognized Turner for promoting appreciation of American history — also part of the park service’s mission — through his financing of two Civil War movies, “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals.”

Turner has donated millions of dollars to conservation efforts, launching several environmental advocacy groups including Turner Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and Nuclear Threat Initiative.

One remark by Turner later generated a response from Regula.

Turner said he owns 2 million acres of land in the United States and abroad, and he insisted he does not have “one single cow, not one in 2 million acres.”

Turner bragged there are tens of thousands of bison and elk that roam his ranches in the West.

When it was his turn to speak, Regula, who lives on a 200-acre farm, observed that he and Turner “have one thing sort of in common. The only thing is he has 1,999,800 more acres than I do,” he said. “But that’s OK because I have 21 cows and he doesn’t have any.”

Former park service directors and others at the dinner credited Regula with finding more dollars for the park system, reducing the maintenance backlog at the parks and saving land for parks.

For example, he was instrumental in preserving the Presidio as a part of Golden Gates National Recreation Area in California after the military base closed, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said.

In his comments, Regula doled out appreciation to park service employees and members of the association.

“A group like yours, you truly do the work of the Lord in preserving this precious, precious resource,” he said. “It is truly a joy to be part of this.”

Turner told the audience it was a “great honor to receive this honor on the same night that Congressman Regula is also being honored.”

Regula expressed appreciation for Turner’s conservation efforts.

At one point, Turner declared that he loves “everybody and everything. I don’t allow rattlesnakes to be killed on my property. I think spiders are nifty.” The only thing he doesn’t like, he said, are ticks, and then only when they bite. “If they leave me alone, I leave them alone.”

The national park system includes 386 units, including Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the First Ladies’ National Historic Site in Canton.

In the past, the association has honored historian David McCullough and former President Jimmy Carter, among others.