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More than just mowing grass

Town Parks Department celebrates first anniversary

— Town parks employees Sue Murphy and Gene LaForte were applauded and presented with gifts at the Aug. 18 town board meeting for the job they have done during an incredibly busy summer and over the past year since their responsibilities and their department was created.

“We all appreciate what you did and that you worked very hard,” said Town Council Member Nancy Murray, while presenting the kudos to Murphy.

But what exactly does the Town Parks Department do, and why do its employees deserve praise?

“Most people in town don’t understand what we do,” said Murphy, whose official title is administrative aide liaison to the town board and does the day-to-day scheduling of facilities and events and coordinating of projects. “It’s far more than just mowing lawns.”

The Town Parks Department is in charge of planning, upkeep, supervising and coordinating of everything that goes on in Austin Park, the Clift park public swimming area, the town-run boat launch, the town Playday program, Skaneateles Falls park, the Charlie Major Nature Trail, and this year the running of the Austin Park Ice Rink.

LaForte is the park labor crew leader and oversees the seasonal and permanent park laborers. Both Murphy and LaForte are the town representatives for the Farmers’ Market committee, which is comprised of vendors and works to promote the local farmers’ market which was this year moved to Austin Park.

This department and its numerous responsibilities were created last year when the Skaneateles Town Board transitioned operations of the Skaneateles Community Center to the YMCA. This was done in order to “refocus” the town’s efforts on the various parks and facilities under the town’s management.

“It’s worked really well for the first year. We’ve been sort of feeling our way through, and it’s been a little bit of a learning experience, but so far it’s all gone smoothly,” said Town Supervisor Terri Roney.

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