Patapsco Valley State Park

Please Note: The Center is closed for the season except for special requests.
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The William Offutt Johnson History Center

The William Offutt Johnson Visitor Center is named in honor and memory of the person who worked tirelessly to renovate this stone duplex and establish this visitor center. Johnson’s passion for sharing history and conservation lives on through this center.

The son of former Maryland State Park Director William “Bill” Howard Johnson, Offutt Johnson dedicated nearly his entire life to promoting natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation. He worked seasonal​ly in several state parks and at Fort McHenry National Monument, eventually graduating from the University of Maryland in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Park Administration.

In l965, Johnson started with the Maryland Department of Forests & Parks as a grant writer. He wrote hundreds of Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants for both state and local projects. Later Johnson held several positions within the Capital Programs Administration where he was instrumental in shaping Program Open Space—now nationally recognized as the nation’s premier open space preservation program. He got the program off the ground by writing the Grants-in-Aid Manual that dovetailed POS procedures with LWCF regulations. As he recalled, “It was a task almost as difficult as going to the moon!”

During his career, Johnson worked closely with Historic Annapolis, Inc. to obtain grants for the Governor William Paca House and Garden restoration. He wrote numerous federal grant requests to help restore Patapsco State Park after it was damaged by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. Johnson played a key role in creating the Helen Avalynne Tawes Garden in Annapolis, and served as executive producer of the documentary film Parks for People. He was named 1986 “Tree Hugger of the Year.” Two years later he was awarded a Presidential Citation for his dedicated personal commitment to the leisure services profession.

After 27 years in Annapolis headquarters, Johnson transferred to the State Forest & Park Service in 1992 to fulfill a long-time dream to work as a park naturalist. At Patapsco Valley State Park, Johnson spent five years converting the last surviving stone duplex from the Avalon Iron and Nail Works into the park’s first full-time Visitor Center. Johnson organized the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park and raised funds and donated services to renovate the Visitor Center and install new exhibits.

Throughout his career, Johnson served on numerous committees of the Maryland Recreation & Parks Association and as Chairman of the Park & Resource Conservation Branch. For five years he served as Treasurer of the Park & Resource Conservation Foundation, Inc.

Upon his retirement in 2001, Johnson was inducted into the Order of Lord Baltimore as a Conservation Cavalier. Johnson volunteered with the Garrett Mentors Program, Garrett County Historical Society, Maryland Recreation & Parks Association, Park & Resource Conservation Foundation (PARC) and Foundation for Maryland Conservation History. In 2007, the Maryland Park Service awarded Johnson the Edmund George Prince Ranger Award.