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EP's Parks and Rec director to retire after 30 years

December 6, 2006
EP's Parks and Rec director to retire after 30 years
By Lyn Jerde, Eden Prairie Sun Current

"I'm out of here!"
In the blunt verbal style that has become his trademark, Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Director Bob Lambert announced his impending retirement Monday to members of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission.

Lambert said he has submitted a letter to City Manager Scott Neal signifying his intent to retire as of March 30, 2007 - ending a tenure that has lasted nearly 30 years. Commission Chair John Brill put Lambert's career into a numerical perspective. "If you look at a map of Eden Prairie in 1977, when we had a population of 10,000, and you look at a map now, when we have a population of 60,000, isn't it amazing that we have so much open space?" he said.

In reflecting on his career, Lambert said the preservation of a particular kind of natural terrain - namely, the valleys of Purgatory, Riley and Nine Mile Creeks - remain one of his most gratifying accomplishments. At the time he began his work in Eden Prairie, he said, the city had first right of refusal to buy 1,000 acres of Purgatory Creek valley, at a then-exorbitant sum of $11,500 per acre.

Lambert said he advised allowing the option to expire, and instead requiring developers to give the land to the city. The city acquired the creek valleys either through developer gifts or tax forfeits, he said. The same developers who fought the notion of giving the creek valley land to the city, Lambert said, now praise him for increasing the values of adjacent property by preserving the valleys in their natural state.

"Now, when they sell homes, the first thing that prospective buyers want to know is, will it always look as it does?" Lambert said. "It's preserved the character of much of our community." Lambert said the recent election City Council elections - in which two successful candidates, Mayor-elect Phil Young and Councilmember Jon Duckstad ran on platforms of fiscal conservatism - had no bearing on the timing of his retirement.

Councils have come and gone over the years, Lambert said. "If a council member is intelligent - and the current council is much more than intelligent - then he or she will realize that we on the city staff work for them," Lambert said. Lambert said the city will begin immediately to search for his successor.

His intention, he said, is to stay on the job long enough not only to help the person who replaces him, but also to see the start of construction on major upcoming projects - including renovation of the Eden Prairie Community Center and the construction of a third sheet of indoor ice. But Lambert said one of the things that's dearest to his heart is creating and preserving natural areas - including several conservation areas, where "rustic" trails, available only to pedestrians, are planned for imminent completion.

"Eden Prairie," he said, "is really a great city with all the natural places we've got." For that and other reasons, Lambert said, Eden Prairie has been a great place to work. He praised past and present elected and appointed officials for being "far-sighted" and "open-minded," and for making his job "interesting and enjoyable."

"People ask me how I got so lucky," he said, "to work in a city where people support what I do."

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