Bob Broscheid considers himself to be the typical state parks visitor. He hikes, bikes, takes long backpacking trips through the wilderness and enjoys water sports. As the new director of Arizona’s State Parks and Trails, he’s hoping to reacquaint himself with Arizona’s state parks and experience what each park has to offer. Leading the department after the tumultuous Parks leadership of Sue Black, who was fired last year, Broscheid, 49, also hopes to be a calming and stable force within the department. He’s no stranger to Arizona, having graduated from Arizona State University and worked for the Arizona Game and Fish department for more than two decades before leaving to lead Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife department. But don’t ask Broscheid which Arizona state park is his favorite — he wants to revisit all of them before giving an answer. “I don’t know about a favorite state park yet,” he said. “I’ve got to refresh myself.”
How did you get this job?
It was always my wife and my goal to come back to Arizona. I moved here in the 1980s and graduated from ASU in ‘85 and then worked for 20 years for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Colorado was a great opportunity, but I knew it had a term. I was working for Gov. John Hickenlooper, but when his second term ended, a new governor came in and usually what happens is they bring their own people. Seeing that the state parks director job was vacant in Arizona, I reached out to the Governor’s Office.
What made you fall in love with the outdoors?
When I was a kid in northeastern Ohio, we had hundreds of acres behind our house. It was the curiosity about nature and the woods coupled with Marlin Perkins and the Mutual of Omaha nature-based television shows. My parents also just said, “Get outside.” Then, I realized that you can do this for a living and that you can provide opportunities for people to feel the same way as I did as a kid. And to me, it is so satisfying when you see a kid or an adult, at any age, hold a frog or hike and see deer for the first time. I just remember that and I think that’s what really drives me is that I’m responsible for providing that first experience for so many people.
How did you first end up in Arizona?
I was always the one in the family that loved the outside, just always loved the outdoors and there really wasn’t a lot of opportunities there. I think I hit the ripe old age of 19 and when I’d saved up enough money to pay for gas, I got a job on a horse ranch in Cave Creek. I was working for a great couple who raised show horses. I put myself through school at night. Eventually, I got myself a loan and finished up at ASU.
How do you plan to move Parks past the previous administration and bring more stability to the department?
Stability is priority. There’s been a lot of change. There’s been a lot of uncertainty. I will not bash anybody before me. I wasn’t here. I’m kind of bringing my own approach. It’s kind of a new vision, a new day type of an approach. In all of my career, I’ve had great mentors. And what those mentors have always instilled is that if you have a highly motivated staff, they will move mountains if you let them and listen to them. Sometimes, it’s knowing when to lead and knowing when to get out of the way.
Are there any major differences between leading the Arizona Parks department versus leading Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife department?
In Colorado, I had parks and wildlife so I had a combined agency. There’s a lot of similarities. If you take away the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, there were 42 state parks in Colorado and several rivers that we managed. Really, they’re very much the same other than different scenery. I told staff the first couple of weeks that I was here that everybody’s got a clean slate. Everybody resets and starts over and that includes me. I’m not bringing baggage from Colorado and saying, “This is how we did it in Colorado so this is how we’re going to do it in Arizona.”
How many state parks does Arizona have?
What was your favorite outdoors experience?
Probably my best experience was a 10-day backpacking trip in Glacier National Park in Montana. That was pretty cool. There was gorgeous scenery with all of those glaciers, but you’re also in a national park with the largest carnivore in North America — the grizzly bear. It was a humbling feeling that we are not, at least in that park, we are not the top predator.
What are your top priorities for the Parks department?
I think my top priority here is to calm the waters. It’s a new day, a new approach. I’m a new director and I’m really just letting folks know, “We’re going to be all right.” Then we’re creating a vision that is going to set the state parks for the next 20 years. Another priority is talking with our partners from the Governor’s Office to the Legislature to other groups to our counties and cities and really having this discussion with them about how we can work together better. The other part is letting our folks do what they do best and letting them manage and let them try things. Let’s take risks, and do it in a safe environment. Some of the best ideas will come from staff when there’s no fear from failing. We’ve all failed, myself included. One of the final priorities is making sure the state parks maintains a high level of credibility, that we are credible, that people reach out to us, they ask us things, they seek our advice and our recommendations.