Richard Boers; 1941-2013: Parks official added swaths of green to city


IDA, Mich. — Richard Boers, a retired Toledo commissioner of forestry and open space planning and a founding father of Toledo Botanical Garden, died Tuesday in his Ida home after a long illness. He was 72.

Mr. Boers’ longtime close friend, Wendell Peterson, said the cause of death was unknown but that Mr. Boers had been sick for about five years, often suffered from dizzy spells, and had several serious falls.

“He was always the picture of health, and then he came down with some strange syndrome,” Mr. Peterson said.

Mr. Boers spent 30 years in the parks department from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s and was known for “greening up” the city. As a city administrator he was responsible for land acquisition and expansion, involving 608 acres and 72 parks in three decades, including International Park.

Mr. Boers also helped to establish the Toledo Botanical Garden. He was a trustee emeritus of the garden’s board and was affectionately called “Father Crosby,”a nickname that refers to the garden’s original name, Crosby Garden. He was excited to be a judge for the Crosby Festival of the Arts for the first time this year, Mr. Peterson said.

“I can’t say enough about the impact Dick Boers had on the garden,” said Karen Ranney Wolkins, executive director of Toledo Botanical Garden. “If it hadn’t been for him, the Toledo Botanical Garden likely wouldn’t exist.”

Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner persuaded Mr. Boers to come out of retirement in 2005 to serve as interim director of parks, recreation, and forestry for a few months. Mr. Finkbeiner called Mr. Boers a visionary and the single greatest advocate for forestry education and horticulture that Toledo has ever had.

“Dick was the planner of International Park, and he knew how to develop large tracts of land by blending green spaces with buildings,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

In 1995, Mayor Finkbeiner asked city council to name the road that runs from Main Street to Miami Street through International Park after Mr. Boers. The sign at the park’s entrance reads “Boers-Boyer Way,” in honor of Mr. Boers and the Willis B. Boyer museum ship.

Mr. Boers grew up in Irondequoit, N.Y, a suburb of Rochester. He studied horticulture and landscape architecture at Cornell University and graduated with a bachelor of science degree. He pursued a graduate degree at the University of Michigan, and during his first year, he was recruited by Toledo to do park design on a seasonal basis.

His parents were not in a position to continue to pay for his education, so in his second year of study he continued to work for the city of Toledo, Mr. Peterson said. He so impressed the head of the department that he was offered a permanent position, Mr. Peterson said. In 1965, at the age of 25, Mr. Boers became the youngest forestry division commissioner in Toledo’s history and the youngest commissioner in the country.

A sign in his office summed up who he was, said Mr. Peterson: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

There are no immediate survivors.

The date and time of funeral services, which are planned to be held at the Toledo Botanical Garden, are pending.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: or 419-724-6091.