You and your kids might recognize Rob Rottenbucher’s work from your favorite city playgrounds. He is the Chief Engineer for the Boston Parks department and works everyday to improve and develop these locations. Rob grew up outside of New York and spent the early part of his career working on bridges before moving on to the parks of Boston. Here, he talks about his life on and off of this very important job.
What does Boston mean to you after living here for so long?
It is definitely my home, I’ve been here for 20 years now. I think I’ve really liked Boston in that it is really a city of neighborhoods. There’s a lot of character in each of the neighborhoods and you kind of know your neighbors and people really identify with their neighborhoods and are very proud of them. Because of that pride they are invested in making them better.
What is the most important thing you feel you have done for Boston parks?
To me, the thing that I am most proud of and the thing that I think about all of the time is making playgrounds more accessible to children that have physical limitations. What I have tried to do is to make things more inclusive. There are different kinds of swings so that the kids can play together and they don’t feel left out. So they’re not separated and they can play together. That’s one of the things that I try to do in the parks – make sure that there is more inclusiveness. So even if you have challenges in mobility, you can still play with the other kids on the same kind of things that they’re on and it’s fun for everyone.
Does such a prominent position ever affect your personal life?
I don’t have as much free time as I’d like to do other things. I seem to always be thinking about the parks and putting my personal time into it because I care about it so much. But it’s also had a positive effect. I have met a lot of people that are really dedicated to their neighborhoods and that are really involved. That gives me people to look up to and things that I could be doing better. It makes me care more for other people when I see how much they care for their neighborhoods. It makes me want to work that much harder to ensure that people get a fair shake in life.
What experience, outside of work, do look back on most fondly?
A number of years ago, probably like 15 years back, I took a break between jobs and I took a summer off and rode my motorcycle across country. I look really fondly on that. It was at a time very similar to now, when a lot of people were looking at an election. It was really interesting talking to people across the country about what their thoughts were on politics and things like that while that was going on and hearing everybody’s opinion and seeing how different people across the country thought differently on issues. I got to see a lot of national parks across the country and camp in them when I did that. I hit almost every state in the lower 48 when I did that.
Do you think this has changed the way you work with people and their parks?
I think it has affected me because I can understand that people have different opinions depending on where you are. The ideas that make sense in Boston are not the same ideas that make sense in say Elk City, Idaho.