During his 45 years with the East Bay Regional Park District, and particularly in his current role as general manager, Robert E. Doyle has seen tremendous growth in the system, which now comprises 73 parks. Here, the Walnut Creek resident discusses his concerns for the future and appreciation for the public’s support of the parks.
Q: How did you get your start in the park district?
A: I was a founding member of Save Mount Diablo and have been very active in the environmental movement since high school. I started as a seasonal ranger at Tilden Regional Park when I was 21.
Q: What are your favorite parks?
A: Morgan Territory and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserves. They both have such beautiful landscapes—everything from creeks, to ridges, to oak chaparral. I love that diversity of habitat. I have always been a very active hiker and bird-watcher, so I love to be out in the different environments.
Q: What are your proudest professional milestones?
A: There are three. Creating the regional trail system—the most extensive bicycle, hiking, and riding trail system in any urban area; it has turned into a green transportation system. Doubling the size of the park district, including 10 new parks during my tenure, is an achievement I am proud of. The third is the voter support for funding acquisition, development, and operation of the parks.
Q: What are your biggest environmental worries for the future?
A: The real game changer is fire. The park district has always been aggressive and forward-thinking about addressing fire, but we never imagined the fire issues we have seen at this level during back-to-back years in California. … We’re the buffer. The parks burn, and they will recover, but when you have houses next to them, it’s really frightening. We’re laser-focused on fuel management, and that is going to continue. [Another concern] is climate change. The shorelines are seeing bigger storms. We didn’t imagine when we bought these shoreline parks—there are 55 miles of shoreline parks now; when I started, there were 100 feet—that they would be the buffer against flooding, storms, and erosion.
Q: What is your ideal park outing?
A: Hiking with my wife. A great day [includes] being on top of a ridgeline, looking out at what we have preserved and how the landscape is now connected. One of my major contributions is [building] that connectivity between wildlife and recreation corridors and the public. It’s an accomplishment I love to look at, and it’s been a great team effort.