Mark Smith, Parks Maintenance Leading Hand Officer at the City of Armadale knows first-hand the hard work and dedication the City’s Parks Maintenance team put into maintaining over 700 parks and reserves across the City.
Mark has worked at the City since 1984 and in that time he has worked alongside his colleagues rain, hail and shine to maintain the green spaces that residents enjoy.
Each morning at 6.45am, four crews of three begin their day with a 15 minute pre-start safety check of their machinery before setting off at 7am for a day of lawn mowing, tree pruning, planting, picking up rubbish, mulching and trimming at designated parks.
“We work from 7am to 4pm and during that time we complete four to five parks a day. An oval like the Harrisdale Oval would take us half a day to work on alone.
“Everything is on a rotating schedule. The surrounds of the active sports grounds and irrigated passive parks are mowed every three weeks, the ovals are mowed weekly, the irrigated reserves are mowed every five weeks and non-irrigated reserves are mowed every three weeks,” said Mark.
Every three months, the team is rotated between active sports ovals, irrigated reserves, and non-irrigated reserves to provide variety for the teams.
“The rotation works well because the strengths of each individual are played out across each area.”
Over three decades later, Mark’s love for working in the outdoors and with the public has kept him thriving in the role.
“It’s always good when a member of the public gives us a compliment. We’ve had lots of comments on how the parks have improved.”
“The parks are the heart of community and we take a lot of pride in maintaining them. If everything is green and healthy, it uplifts the community – it’s pleasant to the eye and more inviting.
“The standard and the expectations from the community have also changed. People expect well maintained parks with more in them including playgrounds.
“We take pride in maintaining that standard and providing better amenities for residents.
“We also feel a sense of pride in our efforts and that we contributed to showcasing our parks and our City when we prepare them for City events like Australia Day or the Kelmscott Show, or other local events.”
During his time, Mark has watched public open spaces increase and gardening equipment and technologies evolve.
“When I first started there were more rural mowing jobs and the leading hands would pick and choose what parks they wanted to work on that day.
Since then, the rapid growth of the City has seen an increase in parks and open spaces. Today, the Parks and Reserves department manage 795 classified parks and reserves, 236 public access ways and 30,000 planted street trees.
The Parks Maintenance team is made up of 32 field staff and 14 others who are based at the depot who manage the logistics behind bush care, estates, parks, streetscapes and irrigation.
“There’s a lot of logistics that are coordinated behind the scenes including returfing, changing over sports pitches and goal posts, re-seeding and fertilising and auditing the sports oval lighting, to name a few.”
“The technology has also improved since I started. Now we have improved irrigation systems to water the grass and hydraulic tilts on the trucks to make it easier and quicker to load and unload branches whereas we used to have to drag the branches by hand,” he added.
Like every job, it has its challenges, mostly around scheduling.
“There are a few challenges to the role but we work around them. If we turn up to a park and it’s too wet to mow, we have to come back and work on it at another time.”
Another challenge is trying to work around animals, people and cars while keeping a 20 metre exclusion zone from the public at all times.
“If we arrive at a park and nobody is using the playground we will start on that area first but by the time we finish, people might be using the grass area so we sometimes have to pack up and move on to the next job and come back and finish the grass area later when it isn’t busy.”
“We try to keep the parks open and friendly for people to use,” he added.
While the team have a set schedule to follow each day, a healthy amount of flexibility is also required in the event they need to urgently stop their work and move on to another site to clean up hazards including broken glass, graffiti, or dumped rubbish.
“We are also happy to help out members of the public. Sometimes we get stopped during our work to help members of the public who have lost their dog or their phone and ask us if we have seen them.”
“At the end of the day, we all take pride in our jobs. I know one guy at the depot who’ll see something that needs to be fixed on his way home after a day at work and he will stop and just fix it. We want our parks and outdoor spaces to be enjoyed by our community, and enjoy helping make that possible.”
Parks Week runs from 10 – 18 March.
Activities in Parks around the City during Parks Week:
10 – 25 March:
Magical Park, An augmented reality game for children aged six – 11 years old.
Download and play for free at Memorial Park, Rushton Park or Burtonia Gardens.
Free Yoga in the Park 6.30am & 6pm, Memorial Park
17 & 19 March:
Movies in the Park, Reg Williams Reserve
Heron Park Harmony Festival, Jim and Alma Baker Park, Harrisdale
FOCUSED Photography competition – The City at Play
For more information on these events visit www.armadale.wa.gov.au.