APR Innovators: Al Kopf

al kopf and susannah horton looking towards front of city hall

APR Innovators is an Asheville Parks & Recreation series highlighting team members going above and beyond to bring huge value to community members through knowledge, connections, and insight that come from a desire to create the best city possible through the power of high-quality recreation programs and safe parks that welcome everyone.


When did you join the Asheville Parks & Recreation (APR) team?

I started working with the City of Asheville in 1985 in the Planning Department, but I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work in APR a couple of years later.

I’ve been a landscape architect for most of my career with the City, although there was a 10 year period when I was invited to serve as the manager for APR’s Planning and Development and Asset Management division. It afforded me the honor to work with virtually every position in the department and most other City of Asheville departments.


What inspired you to apply to join the team?

While growing up, I participated in the town’s recreation program from dawn to dusk every day during the summer. My family also traveled to and camped in national parks around the nation.  Years after these formative experiences, I found myself focusing on park design during graduate school whenever possible in hopes of making it part of my career path – which eventually manifested in a career with APR!


Which accomplishments are you most proud of in terms of your work with the department?

I was fortunate to arrive in Asheville when it began to experience a renaissance following a long period of dormancy after the Great Depression. I was able to contribute to so many City initiatives that were new then (but commonplace nowadays…this was still the era of the typewriter:)). 

I was involved with the revitalization of downtown Asheville via the streetscape including the Urban Trail, creation of a number of major parks, development of the greenway network, implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, and overseeing a platinum LEED-certified community center. These were humbling and amazing projects, but I most value the public’s enjoyment of them, as well as with working with so many wonderful staff and professionals on each of them.


For you personally, what does it mean to work for the department?

It has afforded me the rare opportunity to help contribute towards the wellbeing of the community’s setting and recreation. And personally, it has meant looking forward to working on an incredible range of projects virtually every day. 


How have you grown professionally by working with APR?

I still feel like I am just beginning to grow as a professional for public service and my profession is constantly evolving. I realize that I am only an average landscape architect in terms of talent – I know that having worked with so many brilliant ones! – but I have grown through incredible support and guidance I have received over the years…along with a lot of effort and service to compensate for that entrustment.


What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

It would involve family, nature, music, and reading – and on special occasions, I enjoy traveling to and sometimes assisting with sacred landscapes of different faiths. They embody and expose me to the best of various world cultures in terms of human aspirations: wisdom, teachings, art, music, architecture, and, of course, landscape! 


Join Al and other parks and recreation professionals making significant impact as they work to build a strong, healthy, and happy place to live. Current opportunities to work with Asheville Parks & Recreation can be found online.