East Bay parks GM Robert Doyle retiring after 47 years with district

East Bay Parks GM Robert Doyle retiring after 47 years with district
Robert Doyle. (Photo credit: EBRPD)

Robert Doyle, the general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) who has worked in the district for 47 years, is retiring at the end of this month, the district announced.

During Doyle’s GM tenure, the EBRPD has more than doubled in size in acreage, parks and trails. The district’s acreage has grown from 59,689 to 125,186, making EBRPD the nation’s largest regional park system. Locally, Doyle was noted for helping to win a 20-year battle along the Richmond shoreline that included the creation of Dotson Family Marsh near Point Pinole, and for incrementally closing gaps in the San Francisco Bay Trail, among other accomplishments.

He was described as a visionary thinker and long-range planner who created the last three Park District masterplans, creating the roadmap for the district’s expansion.

“John Muir is the East Bay’s most famous conservationist, but much of his work was elsewhere,” said Save Mount Diablo Conservation Director Seth Adams. “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.”

Doyle, a Walnut Creek resident, grew up in Concord and often explored the open spaces around him as a child. In 1970, he organized his high school’s participation and activities for the nation’s first ever Earth Day. The following year, Doyle went on to become one of the founding board members of Save Mount Diablo.

In four decades with EBRPD, Doyle rose from park ranger to GM, with his first leadership position coming in 1979 when then GM Richard Trudeau tapped him to lead an effort to create a regional trail system connecting its parks. For 20 years starting in 1985, Doyle served as assistant GM for Land Acquisition, Trail Planning, and Interagency and Advanced Planning, He was selected as GM of the District in 2010. 

Doyle also led voter-approved initiatives to fund parks.

“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.”

Doyle called it an honor to lead the district.

“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,” he said. “Preserving land for parks on a large landscape scale has been something I’ve been passionate about and is worth fighting for.”

The Park District has begun the recruitment process for a new GM. In the interim, beginning in January, EBRPD District Counsel Carol Victor will serve as acting GM.

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.