SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Robert (Bob) Piram, former long-time leader of Saint Paul’s Department of Parks and Recreation and one of the most recognizable figures in the field of parks and recreation in the state of Minnesota, passed away this past weekend at the age of 74.
Bob was a life-long resident of the City of Saint Paul and worked for the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation for almost 40 years. A graduate of Cretin High School and the University of St. Thomas, Bob began his career as a recreation leader in 1960 and retired after a 26-year term as the Superintendent/Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation in 1998.
“Bob spent his career making Saint Paul Parks and Recreation a national model,” said Mayor Chris Coleman. “Whether it was his four decades of civil service or his years of volunteer work, he took great pride in making the City of Saint Paul the city we call home today. We will remember Bob fondly for all his contributions to the city and its residents.”
Under Bob’s leadership, Saint Paul’s parks and recreation system became one of the most established and recognizable in the nation. An example of Bob’s innovative work can be seen in the successful development of the modern-day Regional Parks system. Here, Bob worked aggressively to foster the necessary partnerships, most prominently with the State of Minnesota, to help develop the Regional Parks system. As a result of his tireless work, how these parks are programmed and financially supported continues to this day.
A signature initiative that began under Bob’s leadership was the creation of the initial framework for the re-connection and development of lands along the Mississippi River Corridor. This framework that Bob helped develop has lead to the creation of the modern-day Harriet Island, Raspberry Island and Upper Landing. It also provided the foundation for the recently adopted Great River Passage plan which builds upon and connects all the completed improvements that were outlined in the initial framework.In addition to Bob’s work on the riverfront, he also helped position the way Como Park Zoo & Conservatory operates and receives its funding. Under Bob’s direction, there was a merger and consolidation of both operations and non-profit supporters. This consolidation lead to the creation of one “campus”, with a unified operation and non-profit organization for both the zoo and conservatory. Following the mergers, Bob also served as co-chair of the successful $32 million Como Visitor Center Campaign.
“Bob was a born leader who inspired and motivated those who worked for him and with him,” said Mike Hahm, current Director of Saint Paul’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “His vision and work cannot be overstated and we continue to be reminded of his influence thanks to the recognition Saint Paul’s parks and recreation system receives today. So, as we mourn his loss, we’ll be sure to remember to also celebrate all that he did for the city he loved.”
Following Bob’s career with the Department of Parks and Recreation, he started a second “volunteer” career where he spent 13 years as the president and manager of the Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD). With Bob’s leadership, the CRWD became a leader in urban water quality and watershed management. He was able to guide the completion of all four Lake Management Plans for the district (Como, McCarrons, Loeb and Crosby). These plans help to lay out the specific details required to protect and improve the water resources within the district. In 2012, Bob was presented a Sustainable Saint Paul Award as an Exceptional Environmental Steward for his work with the CRWD.
In addition to Bob’s time on the CRWD board, he also was an active alumnus for Cretin High School and served on the Board of the Como Friends/Como Zoo & Conservatory Society (the non-profit organization that supports the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory).
Services for BobVisitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19 at O’Halloran and Murphy Funeral Home, 575 S. Snelling Ave, Saint Paul. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Lumen Christi Catholic Community, 2055 Bohland Ave, Saint Paul, with visitation beginning at 9 a.m. until time of mass.