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Chris Delaporte, former chief of Maryland Stadium Authority, dies

Chris T. Delaporte was the visionary director of Baltimore's recreation and parks program in the 1980s who later headed the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Chris T. Delaporte was the visionary director of Baltimore's recreation and parks program in the 1980s who later headed the Maryland Stadium Authority. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Chris T. Delaporte, the visionary director of Baltimore's recreation and parks program in the 1980s who later headed the Maryland Stadium Authority, died of cancer July 29 at the Life Care Center of Port Townsend, Wash. The former Pasadena resident was 75.

Tapped by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, Mr. Delaporte proposed and led construction of a rowing club in the Patapsco River's Middle Branch, championed the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena and transformed the city's municipal golf courses and zoo to not-for-profit organizations.

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"Chris was a big-picture guy," said City Council member Carl Stokes. "He was a visionary who believed that parks could be an equalizer and a unifier. He cared about children and wanted them to get to know the open spaces."

Born in Oklahoma City, Mr. Delaporte was a graduate of Stillwater High School and earned a degree in political science from Oklahoma State University, He served as a captain in the Air Force in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969 and was awarded the Bronze Star.

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After his discharge, he worked in parks management in Georgia. He was executive director of the North Georgia Mountains Authority and later Oklahoma's state parks director.

In 1977 he became director of federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation Conservation and Recreation Service in Washington. He administered the National Historic Preservation Fund, the National Trails System and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. He wrote legislation on urban parks as part of his duties.

In a 1987 interview in The Baltimore Sun, he said he was proud of assisting Miami Beach in the creation of an historic district filled with Art Deco hotels.

Mr. Delaporte became director of Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks in late 1983. The job involved supervising the city's 6,000 acres of parkland, 22 swimming pools and Memorial Stadium, among other sites.

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A Sun editorial said he brought a resume "as big as Druid Hill Park" to the post.

He fostered the transformation of the old City Zoo in Druid Hill Park into a not-for-profit organization, now the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. He did the same for the city golf courses, arguing that it would improve management and operation. He envisioned a private foundation to assist city parks — this became the Parks and People Foundation.

"He had an incredible vision and enthusiasm. He had a mind for creative solutions for Baltimore's park system's challenges," said Jackie Carrera, a colleague and former Parks and People Foundation director. "He was a true public servant. He also could orchestrate the political, cultural and financial systems to get things done. He was just fantastic."

He led construction of two indoor soccer pavilions, the Myers Pavilion and the Clarence H. Du Burns Soccer Arena. He also won approval for the Baltimore Rowing and Water Resources Center at the Patapsco's Middle Branch on Waterview Avenue, a move colleagues said showed the recreational and development potential of the Port Covington area.

He was a founder of the city's Outward Bound Program in Leakin Park and planned the construction of the Carrie Murray Nature Center there. He worked with state officials on Camp Concern, which allowed hundreds of city children to go camping in state parks.

As parks director, he lived in a house in Clifton Park.

"Sometimes he'd make crazy proposals, but his efforts were always for the best," said Sandra Sparks, president of the Charles Village Association and advocate for the Wyman Park Dell.

In 1987, after Mr. Schaefer was elected governor, Mr. Delaporte left his city job and for two years was executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, which was then planning the replacement of Memorial Stadium with what would become Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"He wanted the new stadium to be more than just a ball park," said Janet Marie Smith, a former Orioles official and now a vice president with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "He could think beyond the challenges."

In 2002, he returned to his old post and served as interim parks chief at the recreation and parks department, remaining until 2003. He was also general consultant to the Parks and People Foundation and founded The Park Advocate, a group that fosters city parks maintenance.

He was a recipient of the President's Award from the Nature Conservancy and the 1987 Friend of the Year, an honor bestowed by the Friends of Druid Hill Park.

"Chris was a man of intellect and humor," said his former wife, Anita H. Delaporte. "He worked to improve people's lives with recreation and parks and access to open spaces."

Plans for a memorial service in the fall are incomplete.

Survivors include a son, Evan Delaporte of Los Angeles.

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