BROOKINGS – With winter refusing to leave, the Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department can’t work on sports fields, parks or projects yet, said Director Dan Brettschneider. This is not only putting his crews behind schedule, but throwing off other organizations, as well.
Another impact is the number of applications for summer workers is down drastically, which worries him.
“Mother Nature’s done a number on us,” Brettschneider said.
“We’re probably two weeks behind” on scheduled projects, he figured.
Brettschneider spoke to the Register April 6, before that weekend’s snow storm that dumped nearly 5 inches on the region. This weekend’s storm is bringing up to a foot of snow and high winds, meaning the city crews will be even further behind schedule.
“It has really put a crimp in all our outdoor activities and user groups,” Brettschneider said.
Can’t get on fields
Cold weather and snow have made it impossible to do the necessary work to prepare outdoor facilities for activities, he added.
Examples are the tennis courts at Hillcrest Park, which are used by the South Dakota State University men’s and women’s tennis teams for practice and by the Brookings High School boys tennis team for practice and matches. The BHS boys tennis team had matches scheduled that have been postponed.
“They have not had an opportunity to step foot on the court yet because there’s still snow on the courts,” Brettschneider said.
Even the few days of warmer weather aren’t enough to solve the problem.
“The tennis court surface does not melt as fast as asphalt or concrete, so even though the roads or sidewalks may have had melted snow, the tennis courts seem to hold the snow a little bit longer,” he said.
Tennis isn’t the only sport affected. Soccer teams, from youth to adult, as well as softball and baseball teams, are in the same boat.
“We’re just not able to put people out on the fields because of the snow coverage,” Brettschneider said. “Once the snow started to melt, we have to have some of the frost go out of the ground so the water can drain properly.”
The “soft and mushy” condition of the fields can be dangerous, he added. Athletes can be injured, and fields can be damaged.
“We hate to see somebody twist an ankle or do some damage to their leg because they were out on too soft of turf,” he said.
Even preparing the fields for action could damage them, he said.
“We can’t put heavy machinery (out). An example would be, if we were going to stripe soccer lines. Even a small tractor that we utilize to put the lines on, the ground’s too soft and we can damage the turf,” Brettschneider said.
The weather is affecting more than spring sports fields.
The cold, snow and wet ground is holding up projects like finishing the road through Pioneer Park along with the Brookings Municipal Utilities substation, and the construction of the Sexauer Park restroom facilities. In fact, the old restrooms aren’t even demolished yet.
“All our contractor’s been able to do is go out and put a temporary fencing around the site,” Brettschneider said.
As for the Pioneer Park road, it’s “supposed to be completed sometime in April, which I don’t foresee happening,” Brettschneider said.
Parks, Recreation and Forestry is responsible for maintaining EdgeBrook Golf Course. Work normally starts out there by the end of March. Spring Fling – the kickoff for the golfing season – was supposed to be April 6; it’s been pushed back to April 20 for now.
April is the month his crews usually do tree planting – “and at this point, we’re not able to do that,” Brettschneider said.
A sure sign of spring is the flower baskets in the downtown area.
“We’re just not able to start doing that process yet,” he said. Normally by this time, “we’d be in the planning process pretty good.”
One thing still on his agenda is a ceremonial tree planting on Arbor Day April 27 at the South Main Fire Station.
“Gonna wait and see, based on weather conditions,” Brettschneider said.
Parks and Rec “loan” employees to other departments for large events, like the city-wide spring clean-up. Originally set for April 9, it has been moved back twice, most recently to Monday, April 23. Brettschneider said four or five full-time employees and three to four seasonal employees usually help the Street Department and landfill staff pick up debris. Moving back the event means those employees won’t be available later to work on fields or maintain facilities.
“With (this weekend’s) forecast, who knows if some other things are gonna need to be rescheduled again?” Brettschneider asked.
Slow seasonal applications
Seasonal employees are very important to the Parks and Rec department in warmer months, but the number of applications is down this year. Brettschneider thinks the colder weather is making people forget summer and summer jobs are right around the corner.
“That hurts us in the planning process because eventually spring is gonna come here – cross our fingers – we’re gonna get warmer temperatures and things are gonna start happening on a routine basis like they normally would,” Brettschneider said.
He hires anywhere from 25-35 seasonal staff members for parks and golf course operations, and between 50-75 seasonal employees for the recreation side which includes Hillcrest Aquatic Center and Dakota Nature Park.
“We’d love to have more people apply” to work at Hillcrest Aquatic Center as lifeguards, concession workers, or front desk personnel, Brettschneider said. He also needs people to do maintenance in the parks and EdgeBrook Golf Course, like turf maintenance and mowing.
Those interested can go to cityofbrookings.com, click on Community, scroll to Employment Opportunities, scroll through the list and apply.
Working for Parks and Rec is a “great opportunity,” Brettschneider said, not only because it’s working outdoors “with a great group of staff,” but because it “goes a long way in your future, using us as a reference for experience, regardless if you’re looking for a job in education, a job in business, a job in horticulture.”
Brettschneider knows the weather is frustrating to everyone and he asks for patience.
“It’s tough, especially for our youth associations. The kids want to get out on the fields. The coaches want to get out on the fields. We’ve been cooped up all winter long,” he said, adding he’d like to get out and play some sports himself.
“But we’re just preaching patience as we wait for the weather to turn and we get some warmer temperatures that will allow the snow to melt and the ground to firm up and allow us to get people out on the fields,” Brettschneider said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]
Courtesy photos: The Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department workers handle a lot of activities in the spring and summer, including moving benches, planting trees, lifeguard duties at the pool, and taking care of tennis courts and ball fields. The extended winter season is putting them behind schedule, but they are still looking for seasonal workers, said Director Dan Brettschneider.