Community members are lauding the contributions of Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson as he prepares to step down after a decade as leader of the parks system.

Community members are lauding the contributions of Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson as he prepares to step down after a decade as leader of the parks system.

Robertson officially retired June 30, but has continued serving as interim director while the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission searches for his replacement. Finalists are being interviewed this week.

"One of his greatest contributions was the style of leadership he brought," said Ashland parks Commissioner Stefani Seffinger. "He mentored many of the younger members of the parks department. He created a strong team with strong skill sets. That will be important in the transition."

Seffinger said Robertson will be presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Association during a state conference in September.

"He's one of the most wonderful people I've ever worked with," she said. "He's given so much to the community. He has such a level of caring and dedication. He's there 24/7."

During Robertson's tenure, the parks department undertook a host of changes and projects.

The historic Enders Shelter gazebo and a bridge in Lithia Park were restored, the uneven surface of the Calle Guanajuato pedestrian pathway was redone with decorative pavers, and numerous parks received upgrades, such as new playground equipment. The long-awaited development of Ashland Creek Park is about to begin, thanks in part to a $309,950 state grant the parks department secured.

"The parks department has been working on a lot of deferred maintenance projects — things that were put off for decades," said parks Commissioner Rick Landt.

Landt said the parks system adopted a policy to use virtually no herbicides in parks and rules were loosened to allow dogs in most parks under Robertson's watch.

He said Robertson ran the parks department in an efficient and professional way.

Ashland City Councilor Rich Rosenthal, a former parks commissioner, said Robertson has great communication skills.

"I don't know of anybody who didn't like working for him," Rosenthal said. "He was able to work very efficiently with the Parks and Recreation Commission, both individually and as a whole."

Robertson oversaw the hiring of Recreation Superintendent Rachel Dials, and together they greatly expanded the number of recreation and learning courses available in the community, said Rosenthal, the recreation superintendent for the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.

The parks department also took over operations of the Ashland Senior Center from the city of Ashland, allowing the center to stay open and flourish. It installed circulation systems to freshen the water in Lithia Park's upper and lower duck ponds.

The popular water features had grown dirty and stagnant, creating eyesores in the park and a health hazard for ducks.

Robertson said the best part of working in Ashland has been the people.

He said residents love their parks and appreciate the work of parks and recreation department employees.

Robertson said he cherishes his co-workers and has been blessed with lifelong friends. He also thanked parks commissioners, past and present, and city of Ashland employees.

"It's been great. I've worked with the best people," he said.

Robertson plans to move to Eugene to be closer to his grown children, who are in Portland.

"We'll be the biggest Ducks fans you've ever seen," he said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or Follow her at