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Help wanted: Maintaining Orem’s play spaces is no walk in the park

By Genelle Pugmire daily Herald - | May 7, 2021
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Richard Brunst, Mayor of Orem, leads a conga line through the water during the grand opening of Orem's splash pad Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at Palisade Park in Orem. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

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Blowing out the City Center Ball Park sprinklers in Orem.

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Real Salt Lake players Luis Arriaga, far left, David Ochoa, center, and Julian Vazquez, right, head to the tennis courts at Geneva Park, where futsal courts will be constructed, on Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Orem. A partnership between the city of Orem, Utah County, and the Real Salt Lake Foundation will support the construction of the courts.

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People enjoy the attractions and activities at the Colonial Heritage Festival Saturday, July 1, 2017 at SCERA Park in Orem. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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A panorama shows some of the play structures at the All-Together Playground in Orem's City Center Park on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. Some of the structures feature Orem landmarks such as the SCERA Center for the Arts. RYAN OLSON, Daily Herald

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Alene Barton, 6, splashes Kaitlyn Call, 13, both of Orem, with water as they play around Friday, July 12, 2019, at the Vineyard Grove Park Splash Pad. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

For all that Orem has and is, it is the city’s park system that continues to bring residents outdoors and visitors into the city.

For years, city planners and City Council have held to the goal of having a park within a half mile of anyone who lives in Orem. And that is a lot of land to take care of.

Reed Price, Public Works Maintenance Division manager, and crews have a big job keeping the 22 city parks maintained and operating efficiently. They do everything from mowing and weeding to cleaning restrooms and clearing away garbage and debris.

The spring and summer months are particularly busy as the parks begin to open up from winter and playgrounds start getting used more.

“We have to get the sprinklers running, bathrooms open, drinking fountains on and add additional garbage cans,” Price said.

But crews do much more than that, according to Reed. They have to groom and chalk mark the baseball fields, spruce up the cemetery and prepare for the Memorial Day onslaught of family and friends to have a nice place to visit deceased loved ones.

The urban forester has to trim and plant trees and mulch around existing trees in all the parks. The splash pad at Palisades Park needs to have the mechanics maintained, water turned on, chemicals stocked and pumps working.

Price said that’s not all. The playgrounds need inspecting and repairing, if needed, and all of the thousands of sprinkler heads need to be checked as they prepare to water the parks.

“There are 114 stations to control the (sprinkler) valves,” Price added. “Pavilions must also be ready for reserved picnics and then cleaned after they are used for the next group.”

Several parks have special amenities like pickleball, tennis, disc golf, futsal, softball and more. They all have to be prepared and cleaned.

But that’s not all. The maintenance crews also mow the city lawn strips, berms, parkways and detention basins.

Taking care of all that is no walk in the park. And this year Price said they are in a bind because the normal seasonal hires aren’t showing up.

“Right now we have 15 seasonal employees, we should be at 30,” Price said. “We’re at half of where we’d like to be at this point in the season. When fully staffed we need at least 50 seasonal employees.”

Price says the problem is the competitive market, people are still not coming back to work and pay levels are increasing and the city must be competitive.

“We start seasonal employees at $12 an hour. Most seasonal employees work eight hours as day, five days a week,” Price said. “Some have variable hours but work a minimum of 26 hours a week.

People looking for work, who like to be outdoors, check the city web site at Orem.org/jobs. Price said he has a job for you.

Employees are typically assigned to a particular park or parks and are expected to keep them mowed and edged, watered and cleaned among all the other tasks.

In the busy summer months, garbage cans are often emptied more than once a day. And playgrounds like the All-Together Playground must be monitored.

Those who think they could enjoy this seasonal employment, Price said it’s time to apply now.

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