Parks Director Fredrick Barkley Transformed Washtenaw County


Fred Barkley


It is with profound sadness that the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission (WCPARC) announces the passing of former Parks Director, Fredrick L. Barkley, on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at his home, surrounded by his family. He was 87 years old.

Mr. Barkley, recognized as a visionary in the field of parks and recreation, led WCPARC from 1985 – 2001. He was an incredibly impactful leader for WCPARC during his 16-year tenure. Under Fred’s leadership, Washtenaw County Parks opened many of the iconic facilities which are enjoyed today by thousands of individuals and families. He managed a rapidly growing park system in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. Key development projects under his leadership include the construction of Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti Township, the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in Ann Arbor, Pierce Lake Golf Course in Chelsea, and Sharon Mills County Park in Manchester.

Rolling Hills Water Park

Many staff and colleagues have been reflecting on his commitment and leadership at WCPARC including current WCPARC Director Coy Vaughn and WCPARC Commissioner Robert Marans who worked closely with Fred during his tenure.

Tom and Kathy Freeman, Fred Barkley, and Patricia Scribner (current WCPARC Commission President)

“Fred’s passion for public service and his vision made our County Park system what it is today. He will be missed by many. On behalf of Washtenaw County Parks, we extend our deepest, heartfelt condolences to his wife, Judith, and their entire family.” Coy Vaughn

“Fred Barkley became director of Washtenaw County Parks after a tumultuous period in our history. For more than a decade, he led WCPARC in building a foundation for a park system that has become one of the best in Michigan He was a committed and effective leader, a gentleman, and a pleasure to work with. I shall truly miss him.” Robert Marans

Pierce Lake Golf Club

Key accomplishments under Fred Barkley’s leadership

  • Parks and Recreation Plan updated and adopted, 1985
  • Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center opens, 1991
  • Rolling Hills Water Park opens, 1991
  • Land for Pierce Lake Golf Course purchased (232 acres), 1994
  • Interpretive programs for Parker Mill initiated, 1996
  • Pierce Lake Golf Course opens, 1997
  • Parks and Recreation Plan updated and adopted, 1998
  • Greenways Advisory Committee established, 1998
  • Land for Sharon Mills County Park is purchased, 1999
  • WCPARC Administrative Building at 2230 Platt Road in Ann Arbor, 1999
  • Restoration of Sharon Mills initiated, 2000
  • WCPARC purchases 130 acres of environmentally sensitive land to expand Park Lyndon (assisted by MDNR grant), 2001
  • Pierce Lake Golf Course clubhouse expanded, renamed the “Frederick L. Barkley Golf Center” 2002
  • Staebler Farm and Heidt property in Superior Township purchased (98 acres), 2001
  • Spray Zone and 2 miles of multiuse trails constructed at Independence Lake County Park, 2001
  • WCPARC receives $200,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan to build the first segment of the Border to Border trail, 2001
  • Fred Barkley retires after 15 years as Director; Robert Tetens selected as new Director, 2001

Mr. Barkley’s obituary can be found here:

Sharon Mills
Bob Tetens, Tom Lebeau, Fred Barkley

Images courtesy of WCPARC

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