City Parks, 2010: Adopt a trash can

       After seeing his maintenance staff cut nearly in half over the past two years (from 93 to 50), City Parks Maintenance Director Kurt Schroeder is ready to accept any kind of volunteer help people want to give.
       Even adopting a trash can.
       “We've had people do that at 17 parks already,” he said this week. “And I'll bet we've got another 10 in the works. We'll take whatever some one is willing to do.”
       He gave examples of other types of assistance (not on the Westside) that have come in recently: someone paying for all the maintenance in a park near him, including water; another donating a portajohn to a park for the season; and someone with a custodial service who has offered to adopt a restroom.
       For such arrangements, the city has a basic form that volunteers need to fill out. The wording just needs to be customized to suit whatever the job will be. “We need a signed agreement so everyone is covered from a liability standpoint,” Schroeder said.
       As for mowing, despite what may have been written about Colorado Springs recently by nationwide media, the city is not asking people to mow the parks themselves. But people could fill out a form and volunteer to do it, Schroeder pointed out. For example, at Thorndale Park this summer, neighboring landscape business owner Russ Finsterwald has agreed to do “trim mowing” around the trees, restroom and pavilion and along the curbs - thus making less work for a city employee to do the main areas with a large riding mower, Schroeder said. The capabilities of Finsterwald's business have also made it possible for Thorndale to keep its trash cans.
       The city still has a longstanding program in which people can adopt parks entirely. For more information on any type of park volunteering, call 385-6519 or e-mail Stacy Stang of City Parks at sstang@springsgov.com.
       On the Westside, Bancroft is the only park that is slated to receive the level of maintenance, trash service and watering (24 inches this summer) that all parks used to get before the city's financial doldrums.
       The other 11 parks on the Westside are considered “non-primary,” and as such are slated to receive only 11 inches of water each, along with no restroom availability, no trash cans and limited mowing and maintenance. These parks are Bott, Blunt, Bristol, Cucharras, Gold Camp, Jackson, Pike, Pioneer, Thorndale, Vermijo and Westmoor (with the exceptions noted above for Thorndale).
       Schroeder clarified that these lesser parks, which are among 128 in that category citywide, will also get mowed no more frequently than every two weeks. And, he said, response times to grafitti and vandalism will probably be a week at best (it used to be a day or two).
       Nevertheless, crews put a high priority on playground safety, regularly check for worn pieces and try to fix parts “before they break,” he said.
       Schroeder doesn't know yet whether the baseball diamonds at the parks that have them (Blunt, Vermijo, Westmoor and Jackson on the Westside) will have their infields “dragged” to smooth them out as used to always be done. “We'll have to see how things go,” he said. “It's going to be a challenge.”
       As for the amount of watering, the maintenance director has his fingers crossed. Last summer, the non-primary parks were also scheduled for only 11 inches, but the grass did not turn brown during one of the wettest summers in years. The city concern is that in a dry summer, 50 percent of the existing grass could be lost, with the cost of seeding to bring it back running about $10,000 or more an acre, according to Schroeder.
       He commented that people might believe that allowing such things to happen is evidence the city is being short-sighted and “trying to save a dime. We're not saving a dime. The problem is, we don't have the dime to spend.”

Westside Pioneer article