Cris Gears, superintendent of Three Rivers Park District since 2007, has announced that he will retire from the position this summer.

The park system owns and operates more than two dozen park reserves, regional parks and regional trails on 27,000 acres, mostly in suburban Hennepin County.

Gears, 63, called the position “the best job that a parks and recreation professional could ever hope for.”

During his tenure, park use doubled from 5 million to nearly 10 million visitors annually, and the district developed Silverwood Park, the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, the new Eastman Nature Center, and new cross-country ski trails at Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington. It also acquired Kingswood Park, a former United Methodist summer camp, in Minnetrista.

Gears also guided a partnership with Scott County for regional park operations and worked with Anoka County and state officials to resolve concerns about the Coon Rapids Dam.

Before his time at Three Rivers, Gears worked in Kitsap County, Wash., and also served as director of parks and recreation for St. Louis Park, and as city manager for Excelsior.

Three Rivers commissioners said the district has an excellent pool of talented employees, so their initial search for the next superintendent will focus on internal candidates.