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Issue date: October 04, 2000

Environmental leader Betsy Crowder killed in accident Environmental leader Betsy Crowder killed in accident (October 04, 2000)

**Betsy Crowder was active in conservation efforts for 40 years.

By Marion Softky

Almanac Staff Writer

In an eerie replay of history, Elizabeth "Betsy" Swann Crowder of Portola Valley was killed September 29 in an automobile accident on Portola Road, less than a mile from where her husband, Dwight, was killed by a speeding car 30 years ago. She was 74.

Friends reacted with shock and disbelief at the sudden loss of one of the Peninsula's most active and influential conservationists. "Who says that lightning doesn't strike twice?" asked former Portola Valley Mayor and Councilman Bob Brown.

"Both Dwight and Betsy were involved in the founding of the town of Portola Valley," Mr. Brown continued. "She has been involved in every conservation struggle, movement, battle, for the last 40 years."

"The world is not as good a place," said Craig Britton, general manager of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Mrs. Crowder represented southern San Mateo County on the district board since 1989, and was president twice. During her tenure, the district increased its holdings of open space on the Peninsula from 29,000 to 43,000 acres.

"She was the most involved board member," Mr. Britton added. "She volunteered for projects, hiked the trails, and scouted lands to be bought. We will sorely miss her."

There will be a memorial service Sunday, October 8, at 4 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church, 945 Portola Road in Portola Valley.

Born in Boston, the oldest of four daughters, Betsy Swann gained her love of the outdoors and wilderness at the family camp in New Brunswick, Canada, where they summered during her girlhood. She graduated from Radcliffe College with a major in English, and went on to Stanford for a master's degree in anthropology.

As an active member of the Stanford Alpine Club, she met Dwight Crowder, an enthusiastic mountaineer and geology student, in the late 1940s. They were married in 1950 and began a life of adventure together.

Starting in 1952, the newlyweds lived in Spokane, Washington, where Dwight worked for the U.S. Geological Survey. They spent rugged summers in geological camps mapping the Northern Cascade mountains. Soon daughters Wendy and Anne joined their summer adventures.

From 1956 to 1958, the family lived in Norway while Dwight obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Oslo, while Betsy learned to speak Norwegian and love the mountains.

Back in the United States, the Crowders built their home in Portola Valley and became very much involved in conservation causes, both locally and nationally. They campaigned actively for incorporation of Portola Valley to stem encroaching development. They also worked hard to establish North Cascades National Park, and the 1964 Wilderness Act. And Betsy became active in the League of Women Voters.

After Dwight Crowder was killed on Portola Road in 1970, Mrs. Crowder began focusing more and more on local conservation efforts. She chaired the Portola Valley Conservation Committee, and later served on the Planning Commission from 1972 to 1977.

At the same time, Mrs. Crowder went back to school and earned a master's degree in city planning from Stanford. She worked as an environmental planner for Palo Alto from 1972 to 1980, often commuting by bicycle the eight miles from Portola Valley.

Mrs. Crowder was a member of many conservation and trail organizations: the California Native Plant Society; the San Mateo County Trails Advisory Committee; the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council; the Bay Area Open Space Council; and Committee for Green Foothills. She also served as a docent at Filoli and Jasper Ridge.

Mrs. Crowder also stayed active in Portola Valley, attending meetings and speaking out for affordable housing. "She was a great lady," said Phyllis Quilter, who shared those efforts. "She valued trails and keeping Portola Valley rural, but she also supported affordable housing."

Mrs. Crowder was also an independent and intrepid world traveler to remote places around the world, including Africa, Nepal, China, and Uzbekistan and the Pamir mountains in Central Asia. She had just returned from Tibet, and, at the time of her death, was returning from an Explorers Club meeting in San Francisco.

With her friend, Jean Rusmore of Ladera, Mrs. Crowder co-authored the third edition of the guidebook, "Peninsula Trails," and was hard at work on the third edition of "South Bay Trails."

Mrs. Crowder is survived by her daughters Wendy Crowder of Palo Alto, and Anne Crowder of Willits; two grandchildren; her sisters Barbara Mouffe and Ellen Leupold of Boulder, Colorado, and Mary Anderson of Barrington, Rhode Island; and 15 nephews and nieces.

The family suggests contributions to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), 3000 Sand Hill Road, 4-135, Menlo Park, CA 94025.


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