Willamalane Center Renamed for Departing Leader
Bob Keefer’s first day at Willamalane Park and Recreation District was as an intern in 1978. On Friday, he retired as superintendent after a 16-year string of successes that saw the development of the Middle Fork Path, Willamalane Center, Thurston Hills Natural Area and more.
Keefer was honored at a reception featuring accolades from the Willamalane Board of Directors, Springfield City Manager Gino Grimaldi, Special Districts Association of Oregon Executive Director Frank Stratton, and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio.
“Bob Keefer’s ability to listen to the public, articulate a vision, encourage partnerships and leverage taxpayer dollars has proven to be a model of true leadership and public service,” Willamalane Board President Greg James said. “When he believes in a cause, he never quits.”
Board members also announced that they have renamed Willamalane Center for Sports and Recreation, where the reception was held, in Keefer’s honor. They credited him with securing the 97,000-square-foot building in 2010 for the district at a deeply discounted price and helping to develop the 27-acre sports park surrounding it.
The Bob Keefer Center for Sports and Recreation is just one of the many developments that occurred on his watch.
Under Keefer’s direction, Willamalane secured more than $8 million in grant funds, including $5 million in federal funding, for the 4-mile-long Middle Fork Path.
After the passage of a $20 million bond measure in 2012, Keefer presided over a construction boom that resulted in new and improved parks, playgrounds, trails and 700 acres of additional green space.
The Willamalane skatepark, Volunteer Park, Jasper Meadows Park, Rob Adams Park, Quartz Park, Pacific Park and the Les Schwab Sports Park at Keefer Center were all developed in the years since Keefer took charge. In 2014, Willamalane acquired more than 650 acres in the Thurston Hills to preserve as a natural area park.
Earlier this month, the National Recreation and Parks Association named Willamalane the winner of the 2016 Gold Medal for excellence in parks and recreation, designating it as the top park agency in the country for communities of similar size.
“When we talk about impact on a community, all you have to do is take a tour of Springfield,” Springfield City Manager Gino Grimaldi said, referencing the Middle Fork Path, the Mill Race Path now under construction, and the vision for Thurston Hills Natural Area.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio said that Keefer’s legacy will live on. “Our great-great-grandkids will look back and say, ‘I wonder how they did that.’”
It was at Willamalane that Keefer began his 38-year career in parks and recreation, as an intern fresh out of Oregon State University.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that that I would be leading this agency at this stage in my career,” Keefer said.
Prior to coming to Willamalane, he had served for 10 years as Lane County Parks division manager.
Keefer, 60, said he is proud of the accomplishments of the district.
“It has been an absolute joy – even with the challenges we’ve faced – to be here,” Keefer said. “The best is yet to come for Willamalane.”
Keefer has been actively involved with the Springfield Renaissance Development Corporation, Springfield Downtown Advisory Committee, Twin Rivers Rotary Club of Springfield, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and is a founding member and director of the Springfield City Club. He is also the current board chairman of the Wildish Community Theater in downtown Springfield.
He and his wife, Christi, will reside in Sisters, where he has joined the board of the local park and recreation district.
The Willamalane Board recently named Vincent Martorello, 49, to succeed Keefer. Martorello previously served as planning and facilities operations director for Willamalane.