Dave Clark, who over the past quarter century built up Albany's park system and became nationally recognized for his leadership in parks and recreation, died Tuesday afternoon following a long bout with cancer.
Clark, 52, had been in a coma since Saturday at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, where he was being treated. His funeral will be Friday or Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1615 28th Ave. S.E. A decision is expected later today. AAsum Funeral Home in Albany is handling arrangements.
A community observance by friends will be held in November.
In his more than 28 years with the city of Albany, Clark was recognized locally and nationally for his beautification efforts and for his support of family-oriented recreational activities.
Coincidentally, a letter to the editor from Clark ran in the Democrat-Herald on the day he died, thanking people for their contributions to improving city parks.
City Manager Steve Bryant has ordered flags on all city buildings lowered to half-staff for the remainder of the week. Bryant and Clark started work with the city about two weeks apart.
"I always thought we would retire together," Bryant said. "I think what we will miss most about Dave is his enormous capacity for vision, optimism and hope. He could see possibilities where no one else could.
"When Dave arrived here, the city owned less than 10 percent of its long-ignored riverfront. Today, well over 90 percent of the Willamette River frontage on both sides of the river is in public ownership."
Clark joined the city as recreation supervisor in September 1974 and was promoted to parks and recreation director in July 1975.
During his tenure, more than half of the city's 29 park properties, including the Senior Center, were acquired, developed or significantly improved.
Those include Bowman Park, the Cox Creek bike path, Deerfield Park, Gibson Hill Park, Grand Prairie Park, Periwinkle Park and bike path, Takena Landing Park, Teloh Calapooia Park, Simpson Park, Timber-Linn Park and the Albany Skatepark.
In 1983, Clark started the River Rhythms concert series. Now the event is the largest free summer concert series in the Pacific Northwest. It has showcased such performers as Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Dixie Chicks.
The companion "Mondays at Monteith" concert series also was started under Clark, and he oversaw the acquisition of the Children's Performing Arts Series from Linn-Benton Community College.
In the summer of 2000, Clark and his staff combined efforts with the Albany Visitors Association to create the Northwest Art & Air Festival. The main concert of the festival takes place in the open-air Oregon Amphitheater with space for 12,000, a venue Clark said was necessary to draw big-name performers to Albany.
For the last two years, Clark worked to complete a riverfront bike path system and raise money to build the Swanson Family Aquatic Center to replace Swanson Pool, which closed after the 1999 season.
Clark also launched a banner program to promote River Rhythms and the Art & Air Festival. The colorful banners sponsored by businesses hang from Albany's utility poles.
From 1999-2001, Clark chaired Albany's Promise. Members strove to nurture, mentor and otherwise help Albany-area young people.
Under Clark's guidance, park maintenance crews transformed Waverly Park into a show piece, and he arranged to landscape the islands in the Pacific Boulevard/Ninth Avenue Couplet into a floral oasis.
This year, the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association Professional Honor Award was renamed in Clark's honor. He won the award in 1987.
In 2000, he received the Oregon Recreation and Parks Association Distinguished Service Award.
Clark was president of the American Park and Recreation Society in 1995-96 and president of the Oregon Recreation Park Association in 1983-84.
He was named Albany Junior First Citizen in 1978 and picked outstanding graduate in the master's public administration program at Lewis and Clark C
ollege in 1991. He was a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association Board of Trustees from1991 to 2000.
Clark received his bachelor's degree in recreation from the University of Utah in 1973 and his master's in recreation and park management from the University of Oregon in 1974.
He lived by a mission statement he drafted a number of years ago:
"My mission is to live a life of integrity and commitment to my family, profession, friends and faith. I will balance the role areas of my life, center my life on unchanging principles, keep my body healthy and free from harmful substances, and actively seek knowledge and wisdom through continuous education."
Clark was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all his life. He served for almost five years as bishop of an Albany congregation, working an average of 30 hours or more a week for the church as a lay leader.
He had many other church responsibilities and was known for his work with youth.
Linn County District Attorney Jason Carlile, one of Clark's friends and fellow church member, described him as a wonderful man.
"He is a friend I have enjoyed working with, serving with, playing with and worshipping with. The world and our community are better places because Dave Clark was here," Carlile said. "I am saddened by his death but grateful for his life. I am in awe of his goodness, generosity, talent and compassion. He lived his convictions."
Clark was diagnosed with kidney problems as a teen-ager and had a kidney transplant in May 1987. He lived with only one functioning kidney, which was not his own.
Survivors include his wife Diane; daughter Julie of Milpitas, Calif., and son Cameron of Albany.
Memorial contributions in Clark's name may be made to the Swanson Pool Fund, the American Cancer Society or to the Kidney Association of Oregon.