Maurice K. Goddard, whose 25 years as Pennsylvania’s top environmentalist were crowned by the expansion of the state park system, died Sept. 14 of burns suffered in a fire at his Camp Hill home the day before. He was 83.

“It is with great sorrow that I heard of Maurice Goddard’s passing,” said former Gov. George M. Leader, who appointed Goddard secretary of forests and waters in 1955. “He was my dear friend and I shall miss him.

“He had a deep love of everything in God’s creation and he dedicated his life to preserving our natural resources because he was so strongly motivated in wanting them to be preserved for people living now and for future generations,” Leader said. “I shall never look at one of our state forests or at people enjoying one of our state parks without thinking of Dr. Maurice Goddard.”

Goddard was credited with developing the state’s wide-ranging park system from a cluster of parks in central Pennsylvania that had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.

“Pennsylvania owes a lot to Dr. Goddard,” said Jeff Schmidt of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, which counted Goddard as a member. “It was his goal to have a park within 25 miles of every Pennsylvanian. We have met that goal thanks to his leadership.”

Goddard left the faculty of Pennsylvania State University’s forestry school to come to state government and served as forests and waters secretary until 1971, when the agency was transformed into the Department of Environmental Resources. Gov. Milton Shapp named him the first DER secretary, and Goddard served until Gov. Dick Thornburgh nominated Cliff Jones to succeed him in 1979.

“It’s a tough act to follow. No one can replace Doc Goddard,” Jones said at the time.

Goddard had a stock answer to explain his professional longevity, serving five governors in Democratic and Republican administrations.

“A forest fire is a forest fire,” he said. “You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to put one out. This job should be measured on merits rather than a political basis.”

Goddard remained active in environmental issues. He was a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

This year, he advised Gov. Tom Ridge on his successful effort to divide the DER into the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Protection.

“His continuing advice to me and many others in the administration was extremely valuable,” Ridge said. “Dr. Goddard will be remembered in history in the same way we remember other great leaders in the field of conservation ... as a great man, a great leader and a great inspiration to us all.”

“I am heartbroken over this tragic loss,” said John C. Oliver, acting conservation secretary. “Dr. Maurice Goddard has been a close friend and mentor to me for the past 25 years. ... We were planning to meet soon about the progress of the new department.”

Goddard, a native of Lowell, Mass., held degrees from the University of Maine and the University of California. Numerous honorary doctorates earned Goddard the nickname “Doc.”

Goddard was a U.S. Army officer in World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

He is survived by his wife, Ethel, who was treated at a Camp Hill hospital after the fire, and two sons, Kim and Mark.