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Director Michael Black resigns from Ashland Parks & Rec Department

 A man with a brown beard, black glasses and a white checkered shirt sitting in a chair in front of a microphone. He is waving his hand in front of him and looking into the distance on the left.
City of Ashland
Ashland Parks & Rec Director Michael Black speaking at a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting May 10, 2023

Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Michael Black announced his resignation this week. Black is leaving the city after nine years that included accomplishments and some controversies.

Michael Black is leaving the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department after accepting a job in another unnamed city. His last day in Ashland will be on July 14.

Black’s career at the APRD began in 2014. Ashland has a high number of parks, with a greater ratio of parkland to city area than Portland, Eugene or Bend.

Most recently, Black helped to complete the rebuilding of the Ashland Japanese Garden in a traditional style, which opened in the fall of last year and saw thousands of visitors on opening day.

“He was actually the project manager for that project,” said Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Rick Landt. “It was a very complicated project and it got basically finished on time. So I think that’s a real capstone project of his.”

Black’s career was also marked with controversies. As parks director, he was named in multiple lawsuits by former parks employees, over wrongful termination and harassment. One of those lawsuits settled for around half a million dollars; another is ongoing.

Black did not respond to a request for comment. In a city press release, Black said, “After almost nine years with APRC [Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission], it is time for me to pass the torch to open new perspectives and growth--- for both myself, and the organization.”

Black’s departure also comes as the City of Ashland appears to have failed a recent effort to reallocate money from the city’s tax on prepared foods to the parks department. The measure faced significant blowback from some residents.

Measure 15-214 is currently failing by under 100 votes, but the election results have yet to be certified.

APRC Chair Landt said the city has high expectations for its parks, amidst competing demands for greater services and reduced costs.

“It’s a challenging work environment,” Landt said. “Usually the shelf life for these kinds of positions is typically 8-10 years.”

With Black leaving in about a month and a half, Landt said the search for a new director will begin immediately. Just like the search for Black, Landt expects the commission will launch a national search for a new director. Black ended up being a local hire, having worked for the City of Grants Pass prior to his job in Ashland.

Landt said Black leaves high expectations for the next director, especially when it comes to planning.

Landt said the search will probably take around 4-6 months. While a replacement is found, Deputy Director Rachel Dails will be taking over Black’s duties.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.