Calling All Crew Members

“In South Florida, we’re heavy and deep into football season,” explains Cesar Garcia, superintendent of parks for the city of West Park.

“Everyone wants to be outdoors all the time, so the hardest part is keeping people off the fields. The fields can only handle so much. People see that the sun is out, but we have to explain it’s been raining for 3-1/2 days.”

Garcia says the “rainy season” brings issues of dry rot that can only be addressed with a proper aerating schedule. He adds that insects come with the rain, so eliminating standing water is always a priority.

He implores those with parks below sea level to have a plan of attack in maintaining ball fields and other common outdoor gathering areas.

In Mesquite, Texas, Travis Sales, Manager of Park Services, recommends cutting, leveling, and installing new sod and removing the clay buildup that produces a dangerous “lip” that impacts ball roll.

“This is the time to get your irrigation systems inspected, adjusted, and ready for the spring of the next year so that they are functioning properly for the start of the watering season,” he adds.

Winterize

Perhaps the most extensive task on the “to-do” list, winterizing is arguably the most important fall-maintenance procedure.

One of the most common tasks is shutting down restroom facilities and blowing out lines for irrigation systems, pools, and any other water lines that can freeze over the winter.

Make sure you thank your staff for their efforts. Photo Courtesy Of Fort Collins Parks Staff

“I personally hate water-line breaks in the spring,” Felix admits. “All of our buildings and the pool have their water lines blown out with an air compressor. Drain lines, urinals, and toilets are filled with RV antifreeze when they are empty of water. Every inlet in the pool has two cups of RV antifreeze poured down it. When it runs back to the surge tank, I know the lines are ready to be capped.”

Among the other tasks to be completed, Bill Rosenberg, director of parks and facilities for the Carol Stream Park District in Illinois, adds to the list:

 

  • Remove pond aerators
  • Get the sled hill ready and inspected
  • Place markers along paths to be plowed
  • Check and change light timers
  • Bring in most of the trash cans
  • Remove the fabric from sun structures
  • Top-dress sport fields with dirt and seed
  • Bring in picnic tables
  • Mulch playgrounds
  • Have port-a-potties removed
  • Take down the lighting-detection system.

Fall is also a delicate dance with Mother Nature to determine which equipment is needed–the mower or the snow blower. Until the ground freezes and the temperature drops, it is difficult to make the switch to winter gear for good.

Bob Burkhardt, crew chief for the North District for the City of Fort Collins Park Division in Colorado, offers a checklist for converting equipment for snow removal:

 

  • Remove mower decks, and convert them to snow brooms
  • Check snow-plow attachments and prepare for mounting on trucks
  • Prepare utility vehicles for snow-broom attachments
  • Train employees on snow routes and equipment operation.

Seasonal Employee Send-Off

After all that labor, employees deserve a round of applause for their efforts. After reviewing seasonal employees to determine “who performed well and treated the position with respect,” Felix recommends hosting an “Adios Party” to show employees how much their dedication and hard work are appreciated.

And before the last shovelful of snow melts, start thinking about how to get a jump on the spring cleanup. Those departments that have been diligent about keeping a journal and scheduling projects for the upcoming season will have a leg up.

SIDEBAR

More Advice

“Keep a journal on what worked and what did not work in the summer. I am surprised by how much I refer back to it. Use your journal to organize a list of improvements for next season.”

–Jesse Felix, Superintendent of Parks, West Chicago Park District (Ill.)

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