As Robert Doyle retires at the end of December 2020 after 47 years at EBRPD, including ten years at the helm as General Manager, he leaves many legacies that will benefit the lives of East Bay residents into perpetuity. Doyle was acknowledged at the Tuesday, December 15th Park District Board of Directors meeting.
“It has been such an honor to lead the District and the talented staff that make Regional Parks work, including daily park operations and maintenance, interpretation and recreation programs, land acquisition and park planning, and police and fire protection, to name a few,” said Park District General Manager Robert Doyle. “The Park District’s success is about having a team committed to our 86-year mission to protect public open space, wildlife, and habitat while providing quality parks for recreation.”
“Preserving land for parks on a large landscape scale has been something I’ve been passionate about and is worth fighting for,” added Doyle.
Doyle is a visionary thinker and long-range planner capable of being attentive to details about projects, partnerships, and the history of virtually every piece of land the Park District owns. He has been intimately involved with the creation of the last three Park District masterplans, essentially creating the roadmap for East Bay Regional Park District expansion.
“Parks do their best when they have a great leader, and the East Bay has had incredible leadership with Bob Doyle,” said Former Director of National Park Service John Jarvis, who served under President Barack Obama. “Bob is not only a visionary but someone who can deliver on that vision at the same time, a rare quality.”
Doyle more than doubled the size of the Park District in acreage, parks, and trails. Several of his other significant accomplishments have been lauded by leaders within the East Bay:
*Three former military bases closed during the Clinton administration are now approved for redevelopment into the future with publicly accessible regional parklands.
*Doyle successfully fought a 20-year battle for environmental justice along the Richmond shoreline, including the Dotson Family Marsh (named after the family who began the fight to acquire this property for the public) that offers spectacular access along the Bay adjacent to a predominantly Black community near Point Pinole in Richmond.
*Closing gaps incrementally along the San Francisco Bay Trail, including developing two pedestrian bridges over busy BNSF railroad tracks. Doyle is responsible for the Park District’s mostly contiguous Bay Trail along the 55 miles of East Bay urban shoreline.
*McLaughlin Eastshore State Park grew out of community support by leaders like Sylvia McLaughlin, co-founder of Save the Bay, who fought to remove garbage dumps from the Berkeley shoreline; under Doyle’s leadership, a close partnership exists with a 30-year management plan between the State of California and the Park District to manage this popular destination for recreation and environmental enthusiasts.
*Doyle significantly increased the Park District’s connection with multicultural communities through innovative health initiatives, educational programming, and a record ten-year sustainable revenue growth of the Regional Parks Foundation, the private fundraising nonprofit that improves Regional Park access for underserved communities, and communities of color.
“Bob lives conservation,” said Save Mount Diablo Conservation Director Seth Adams. “During his years at the Park District, protected acres at the District have more than doubled, and public lands in the East Bay as a whole have more than tripled.”
“John Muir is the East Bay’s most famous conservationist, but much of his work was elsewhere,” Adams added. “Bob Doyle has been the most effective environmentalist in the history of the East Bay, with a greater positive impact on the physical geography than any other individual.”
Growing up in Concord, Doyle spent endless outdoor time as a kid exploring the open spaces around him, especially Mount Diablo, Diablo Foothills, and the land that is now Black Diamond Mines Regional Park. His first contribution to the environmental movement began in 1970 during the nation’s first-ever Earth Day, where he organized his high school’s participation and activities. Doyle then went on to become one of the founding board members of Save Mount Diablo in 1971.
During his four decades spent at the Park District, Doyle has held many instrumental roles. His unique journey from Park Ranger to General Manager included many significant positions along the way. His first leadership position came in 1979 when then-General-Manager Richard Trudeau tapped him to lead the District’s efforts to create a Regional Trail System connecting its parks. Today, regional trails in the East Bay are likely the most used trails in the Park District, providing environmentally friendly modes of transportation for recreation and getting to work, school, or shopping areas.
In 1985 Doyle was selected to lead the Park District land acquisition efforts. After 20 years as Assistant General Manager for Land Acquisition, Trail Planning, and Interagency and Advanced Planning, Doyle was selected as General Manager of the District in 2010. During his tenure, the Park District has grown from 59,689 acres to 125,186 acres and today is the nation’s largest regional park system.
“The landscape of the East Bay would be significantly different if it were not for Bob Doyle,” said former Park District General Manager Pat O’Brien. “Not only did he help create parks and preserve properties and areas for wildlife, but he inspired other people, who took up the mantel to advocate for open space, for legislative priorities within the District, and to procure public access.”
“Bob has also been an advocate for public access, one thing that probably is not talked about enough,” added O’Brien. “Not only did he want to preserve the properties and acquire them, but he also knew the importance of public access because, without public access, the public wouldn’t support the property acquisition program of the District.”
Always one to share his District’s best practices on a state, national and international level, Doyle is well known in the Parks, Conservation, Environmental space. He was a co-leader in California’s first successful statewide park bond effort in 15 years for Prop 68, generating $4 billion in per capita funding for every park agency in California. Impressively under Doyle’s leadership, the Park District has never seen higher support from the public (85% voter approval for 2018 ‘s Measure FF to provide additional revenues for parks); he has successfully advocated and helped the Park District receive over $1 billion in new revenue to pay for sorely needed capital development at parks and acquisition of parklands across Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Doyle concluded his career at the Park District leading the agency through one of the most challenging times in its history.
“COVID-19 has shown just how essential parks are to the community’s physical and mental health,” said General Manager Doyle. “The District overcame tremendous challenges to keep parks open and safe for the public when they needed them most. Our existing partnerships with the County Health Departments have been very effective in showing that parks are essential for health, not just recreation. I am extremely proud of how District staff answered the call and came to the public’s aid during this time.”
Environmental Preservation – Over his lifetime career of public service and advocacy for open space and parks, Doyle has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land in urban areas for habitat preservation and recreation. The Park District grew by over 65,000 acres during his time at the Park District.
Regional Trail System – Doyle also pioneered creation of the District’s regional trail network connecting people to parks and for green transportation. Doyle’s contributions include 200 miles of new Regional Trails.
Park Access for Urban Communities – Doyle also championed the expansion of parks in urban areas for multicultural communities, including increasing private fundraising for Regional Parks Foundation programs that help connect youth from underserved communities to nature. He expanded the District’s Healthy Parks Healthy People connection with nature and redirected its focus on engaging communities of color to learn about health, wellness, and nature by going to a regional park. During the ten years of Doyle’s role as General Manager, the Foundation has sustained ten years of year-over-year revenue growth, and served tens of thousands of youngsters and families.
Doyle is currently a Walnut Creek resident. His wife Tina is also an ardent conservationist, executive leader, and successful private fundraiser for parks and open space. The two have plans to enjoy their coastal home hiking trails and ocean views.
The Park District has begun the recruitment process for a new General Manager. In the interim, beginning in January 2021, EBRPD District Counsel Carol Victor will serve as acting General Manager.