Scott Robson was flying high with the recent World Series win by the Boston Red Sox. He’s been a Red Sox fan “forever” and is fluent in discussing baseball trivia relating to Bean Town.
As Executive Director of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EPRD) since April of 2011, Scott knows a fair amount about recreation on the local level as well. He’d worked for Denver Parks and Recreation for several years prior to 2011 and, much earlier in his career, for the Parks and Recreation Department of Louisville, Colorado, giving him a familiarity with local parks and open spaces that has proven useful in his current job.
His relationship with Denver Mountain Parks (DMP) was probably one of the reasons he was selected from amongst a number of worthy candidates, as Evergreen’s recreation facilities interface a good deal with the arm of Denver city government that regulates much of the open space we enjoy in the Evergreen area.
Activities on Evergreen Lake require that interaction, as the lake is owned by the City and County of Denver (CCD) but managed through a long-term lease by EPRD. The Lake House was built by and is owned by EPRD but is located on property owned by CCD. Buchanan Park abuts Bergen Park – property owned by Denver. (Removal of the fence that divided the two took negotiations not unlike tearing down the Berlin Wall about 10 years ago.)
Scott’s experience with the National Parks Service a decade ago had exposed him to the planning and public input side of larger parks. Holding public meetings, meeting with rangers, projecting needs for decades to come added to his expertise that made his resume stand out from the rest. He’d worked with national parks such as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco; Abe Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois; Saguaro National Park in Tucson; the national battlefield in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the fossil beds in Eastern Oregon; the shipyards in California; and more.
It had been his dream job to see the crown jewels of the country and be part of protecting them for and from public consumption, but he’d had two small children at home…. So, working closer to home made more sense.
Scott grew up in Coal Creek Canyon, and Evergreen had been part of his life as a kid. When he and his young family settled here in 2005, it was an easy commute to his job with the National Park Service in Green Mountain. “It felt like home right from the start,” he noted. “It was a nice fit with young kids. We loved the school system, and there was a nice trail system right out the back door.”
He remembered thinking when Dick Wulf retired after being EPRD’s first and only director for 35 years, “’Wow, that could be a pretty special position,’ knowing I was driving right past the office every day. But it wasn’t the right timing.” With his job as Manager of Parks and Recreation at the City of Denver likely to change when Mayor Hickenlooper’s replacement took office, Scott decided it was time to apply for the ED position the next time it opened, in 2011.
The interview committee recognized his background in managing staff and budgets in relatively complex political environments as valuable. That, coupled with the fact that he was a local guy who knew the community, cinched the job. Since then he’s played an important role in implementing new projects, events and activities as well as building a stronger relationships with nonprofits.
With EPRD not being in land-acquisition mode, Scott enjoys focusing on improving what was already owned by the district. He’s influenced the redesign of Evergreen Lake Park and Wulf Park, started pond hockey and conceptualized (with the public) the Winter Festival. “It’s rare for anyone in professional life to see any real, tangible impacts,” he says. “I feel lucky to be in this role, in this profession. I’m lucky,” he says, “to be able to be able to [have this influence] where even my own kids can enjoy it.”
Within a relatively small organization (29 FT employees, 200 PT employees), Scott is able to move from concept to planning to implementation in a relatively short amount of time. Although "relatively small," EPRD is recognized as one of the top employers in the community, pumping $3.3 million back into the local economy.
The Flood of 2013 presented unexpected issues, with repairs to footbridges and trail systems around the lake requiring attention. Use of the Lake House was curtailed for about a week, causing the relocation of several weddings. Working with brides and grooms held the same priority as working with FEMA and the Metro District.
With two boys in local schools, they have an opportunity to see what their dad does, as they accompany him on park projects and public meetings evenings and weekends. He coaches them in basketball and the Evergreen Junior Mountain Bike Team. “It’s good to be able to share those aspects together,” he says.
They also ski and explore other parts of the state together, always in search of new venues for hiking, biking, mountain biking, and camping.
Living and working in the same community feels at times like he’s engaged locally seven days a week, but he finds time to stay involved in urban issues. He’s on a board for The Park People, a foundation for the City of Denver parks and recreation where he keeps his hand in planting trees, implementing new playground projects and identifying new sources of funding around Denver, focusing on the underserved areas. “I didn’t want to narrow my professional and personal life to just one end of the spectrum,” he noted.
Scott also stays involved with City arts and cultural events and music. “I love live music and have a great group of friends in the Denver area to mix my time with.” Having grown up nearby, he still spends time with his 5 best friends from elementary and middle school, talking weekly by phone for the past 30 years.
It seems that EPRD hit a home run when it selected Scott Robson to serve as its Executive Director. He’s restored confidence in the team, built new relationships and mended old ones. He’s definitely a winner!