Aug 22, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
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.
Roney said that Murphy and LaForte have done excellent work and “The board is generally very pleased with how things have worked out this year.”
Murphy said she has learned a lot over the past year in working at her new responsibilities. She previously worked at the Community Center, and so she was familiar with much of the work.
There is of course a lot of lawn mowing and upkeep in the day-to-day aspects of the department, Murphy said, but that is not all the parks department does with its time. They work with the baseball and soccer leagues and get the Austin Park fields ready for play; they train and prepare all the lifeguards for the public swimming area; they prepare and certify all the Playday counselors; they work with the farmers to make the Farmers’ Market a successful endeavor.
The parks department also prepares its various locations for the numerous events Skaneateles residents love and expect every year, such as the Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast, the Skaneateles Methodist Church Antiquefest and the annual boat show.
They recently resurfaced the tennis courts, and added new gutters and a new concrete floor to the pavilion.
During the last weekend of July, the parks department oversaw in Austin Park, the setup and breakdown for the Symphony Syracuse concert, the setup and breakdown for dinner and breakfast — and overnight camping in the park — for the 600 bicyclists participating in the Bon Ton Bike Tour and parking for another 75 cyclists who came from Ontario to cycle around Skaneateles Lake. That weekend the Farmers’ Market was scheduled and still held without interruption.
In that three-to-four day period, parks department employees moved between 1,800 and 2,000 people through that facility and the park. In a published letter to the editor recently, the town board recognized this as “a true test of the dedication and abilities of our town parks department employees.”
Murphy said doing the job of the parks department is all in the detail, and takes a lot of coordination. “Our crew works very hard and long hours,” she said. She also praises the support of the town board, the highway department and the village board, as well as all the groups she works with in preparing their events.
The newest upcoming endeavor for the parks department will be running the Austin Park Ice Rink, the operation of which the town recently reclaimed from the YMCA due to resident complaints.
Murphy said the only difference with the parks department managing the rink will be that residents and groups will have an easier time checking rink availability and booking ice time by using the town’s website.
“Hopefully, this will be a very seamless transition,” Murphy said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.