The massive job of maintaining SoJo's parks and green spaceMar 29, 2021 11:51AM ● By Mariden Williams
Rushton Meadows Park has a new play surface in its future. (Mariden Williams/City Journals))
By Mariden Williams | [email protected]
After four years of play, South Jordan's Rushton Meadows Park will be getting resurfaced. The springy rubber play surface has been used hard over the years, particularly around a certain game built into the playground equipment.
"The game is so popular, and it's been so used, the kids have just worn down through it," said Spencer Kyle, South Jordan's director of administrative services. "It's a good problem in that it means it's popular and it's getting used."
Resurfacing playgrounds is just one of the many tasks that goes into keeping South Jordan's well-loved parks in shape. City parks require a lot of maintenance. Aside from all the obvious lawn care elements—mowing, trimming, edging, fertilizing, watering and aerating—park employees also pick up litter, make sure trees are healthy and disease free, control for pests, perform playground inspections, clean bathrooms and pavilions, empty the trash cans every day, maintain ball fields and courts, help coordinate city events and more.
According to Kyle, the city maintains around 438 acres of park space, with 23 full-time employees. Theoretically, the department is also meant to have 20 seasonal employees that work from March through November, but Kyle says that they never have quite the full complement of 20.
"We've never actually been able to hire more than 15,” Kyle said. “Getting fully staffed with seasonals is difficult."
Part of the difficulty is that city leaders mostly look to hire college students for seasonal positions, the idea being that students can help maintain the parks during the peak spring and summer seasons, then go back to school in the fall. Unfortunately, in practice, college students only tend to be available in June and July, which leaves the parks and rec department shorthanded in the spring months.
According to Kyle, there are three basic levels of park maintenance: level one, which is immaculately landscaped and groomed; level two, which is clean and green but not particularly fancy; and level three, which is rougher and weedier and more natural, and visited by parks employees only a few times a year.
"Of all the properties that we have the city, we believe the expectation is that 10 of those were maintained at a level 1, 22 of those are maintained at a level two, and eight of those are maintained at level three," he said. "Right now, there are no parks that are maintained at a level one. We're just not able to do it. Twenty-nine of the parks are currently maintained at a level two, and 15 parks are a level three. So definitely, we believe that at least 10 of these parks need more attention."
The parks and rec department crunched the numbers and found that in order to maintain the parks at the current expected levels (rather than their current actual levels), they would need to hire 29 more workers. If the city adds 60 additional acres of park space from Daybreak, the number of needed workers will shoot up to 50.
Kyle said the department mostly needs two things.
"One is additional staffing and then kind of a recalibration of expectations," he said.
While 50 additional parks workers would be great, nobody actually expects that to happen—there are too many other areas of the city that need that funding. So don't take it too personally if your park has a brown spot or two.
"Clearly, we would love to have every park be a level one—something like, you know, a [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] temple grounds or something like that,” Kyle said. “But we recognize that's neither feasible nor realistic."