City Thanks Retiring Parks and Recreation Commissioner for 15 Years of Service
|Posted on July 6, 2022|
|City Thanks Retiring Parks and Recreation Commissioner for 15 Years of Service|
|By Lou Fancher|
|Brook Street Park Ribbon Cutting on April 18. Photo Sharon K. Sobotta|
Lafayette City Council at its June 27 meeting recognized longtime Parks, Trails and Recreation Commissioner Mark Poole for his impressive 15 years of volunteer service. Poole will end his term due to his increased workload and demands for more of his time, but he also says 15 years on the commission leads him to believe it’s time for new ideas and new energies.
“We need refreshment,” Poole said. “I’m not saying a new commissioner has to be younger, but younger family representation is lacking on some committees and we need all elements represented. It’s someone else’s time .”
In his “real life”, Poole is an assistant attorney general for the California Department of Justice whose work centers on environmental law. He is married with two children, a college-aged son and a daughter who graduated this year from Acalanes High School. Originally from Oregon, Poole grew up camping, fishing, hiking and participating in sports, including competitive college football. While team sports allow him to tap into the energy of a group, he says fishing feeds his soul and teaches him patience, as well as slowing down and appreciating the natural environment.
Lafayette PTR director Jonathan “ACE” Katayanagi says Poole has stood out as a respected commission leader whose legal background has often served the city well. Among the many projects over Poole’s years on the commission and its sub-committees are the bocce courts and multi-sport rink, improvements to the community park playground, the dedication of the Bellenger Trail, renovation of the Cedar Hall, Brook Street Park and Community Center. toilets and the construction of the Jennifer Russell building.
“Mark listened to all points of view in meetings and went the extra mile to make sure he understood what the residents wanted to communicate to the Commission,” Katayanagi said. “He would work to find common ground. Where there might be a difference of opinion, he would take the time to explain his reasoning so that there was always an understanding of how he made his decisions. .”
Completed projects such as the replacement of the children’s play area at the south end of the community park and the addition of play elements to the Brook Street park, he says, are important and positive for families with young children. The addition of the Batwing property, a 22-acre area that will be turned into a nature park, Poole marks as the most important, while noting its absence from the process. “I live within 500 feet of the property, so I had to recuse myself from the commission’s role in this project,” he explains.
The success of the 51-year-old resident who moved with his young family to the city in 2004 is marked by projects he says reflect the commission’s greatest positive energy, commitment to community betterment and demonstration of synergistic teamwork.
“You might find it strange, but the things that stand out are the projects that failed more than the projects that succeeded,” he says. “We had two big projects, Lafayette Bike Park in the early 2010s, and Deer Hill Community Park which would have been part of the development of 45 homes, a dog park and a desperately needed children’s sports field and play area. The Deer Hill project ended in a public referendum that rejected it. They stand out for me because the commission worked well, worked hard and came up with good plans that would have served the community. They would have added real value. So I’m proud to deal with it.”
When asked which role models had the most influence on his service as an adult, Poole immediately talks about family. “My volunteer ethic comes from my parents. Both were great examples. My father worked as a civil servant, as a judge for 35 years. My mother was a lifelong teacher and high school counselor who did volunteering with churches, (organizations that serve) the homeless and troubled teens My parents set the tone for contributing to your community selflessly.
As Lafayette grows, the need for a balance between increasing housing density, new retail and restaurant businesses, increasing population, and maintaining parks and recreation areas is essential, according to Poole. “We must anticipate growth and maintain habitability and quality of life. The Parks, Trails and Recreation Commission will play an important role in acquiring new park properties and we all know that land is becoming more expensive and harder to find.
The pressures of a thriving semi-urban town and the complexities for volunteers, council members, town staff and community residents working to maintain balanced growth could, but do not cause concern in Poole. “I was so impressed during my stay with the number of people who volunteer in Lafayette. It’s rewarding to be a part of it. I learned so much about how the city works and tell people I would love to see more people involved.”