Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 10:29 a.m.
Waking up Spokane’s 87 parks after a long winter’s nap is very labor intensive.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions have already cut into parks funding and the number of people available to do the work.
Attractions are closed, classes that generate fees have been postponed. So, without that incoming cash flow, Parks and Rec can’t afford to hire its temp-seasonal help.
“And so right now we don’t have that one-third of the budget, so that’s a lot of those funding concerns that we have right now so that we can’t ramp up our staffing like we normally do this time of year,” lamented Garrett Jones, Director of Spokane Parks and Rec.
So instead, the Parks Department is relying on its existing staff to provide essential, core services.
Getting the water flowing again, removing graffiti.
“And so under that core services model, most important is, the health and safety of our public and employees and then, the second is asset protection,” Jones explained.
Asset protection means keeping our golf courses green and healthy, preserving pools. Things that will help our parks bounce back sooner as COVID restrictions are lifted.
“We want to keep these assets protected. There’s no better four city courses in the entire country, and I know between us here at Qualchan, and all the guys at the other courses, these courses are going to come out just as good, if not better than, when we went into this thing,” pledged Rob Decker, Superintendent at Qualchan Golf Course.
Parks and Rec is getting some help from other departments. The City of Spokane has scaled back its parking enforcement program. So, Officer Jacob McKenna has put down his ticket book to lend a hand picking up trash in our parks.
“The way I see it, we’re all part of one Spokane community and it doesn’t matter how I play a role in it, how I’m helping out. If there’s something that needs to be done, I’m down to do it,” said McKenna.
Reopening our parks with limited staff demands determination and leadership. Dave Randolph is the foreman for Park Operations, but sets the pace for performance by assigning himself some of the most difficult duties, like picking up trash along the steep banks of the Spokane River.
“You know the grass might be a little bit longer, the restrooms might be closed a little bit longer, but we’re looking at other options like portable restrooms. So we just ask that the community works with us and communicates with us,” Jones predicted.
That includes keeping a close eye on our parks. Regrettably, the COVID crisis has triggered an increase in vandalism and illegal dumping.
“But we’re going to work on this together and we’re going to have a safe approach to get us back to what we expect from our beautiful park system. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to get there, it might just take a couple of months longer,” Jones stressed.