This is the fourth post in a series of Q&A that looks at how various
departments gear up for the busy winter season, and the challenges and
opportunities they face in providing high levels of service year-round. We talked with Ted O'Brien, Parks and Trails Manager about what it was like to come off such a great summer, and whats going on as the snow starts to fly.
Q: We experienced a very busy summer with lots of people in town using our parks and trails and providing great feedback on recent improvements. What are you most proud of this summer?
A: We surprised ourselves in how much we got done on the trails. Deadline Trail, the North Rim extension, and South Rim extension were built. These projects incorporate three new short bridges. We made sustainability improvements to the Lowline and Highline trails, and we built a new connection from the end of the Tom Blake to the trailhead parking lot.
This was also the first summer we’ve had noxious weed control back under the Parks and Trails Division. Just over 25 acres were treated this year so the community should continue to see a big improvement. This program will continue next spring and we’ll be able to be more proactive.
A lot of extra work went into our parks this past summer to help our facilities bounce back after large events. We added an Irrigation Specialist to the team, and Kane has been a huge asset to help improve the efficiency of our irrigation system. By making repairs, adding sensors, and making general upgrades, his efforts have helped the town save a ton on water bills.
Q: How do your fall duties and responsibilities prepare you for the busy winter season?
A: The Parks and Trails crew works up until Oct. 31st. Until that point we’re mostly getting equipment ready for the winter. We maintain an ATV which we use for grooming trails which requires tracks and various grooming attachments so we’re ready to start grooming the paved trails for Nordic access right when the snow flies. Also, we snow stake all of our paved trails so we know where to plow if the snow gets too high. After I lose my full crew my responsibilities shift to field work that includes maintenance at all parks and grooming.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in the winter?
A: Equipment, time, and lack of a year-round crew. With plenty of snow last season and the operations of the ice rink, there was too much on the plate for one person to handle, but we’re making a lot of improvement s this year which will allow us to be more proactive and strategic.
For example, we’re hiring an ice rink attendant so our winter rink will provide a better experience for users. We’re also contracting out snow plowing in parks and trails. This change brings a lot of community benefit because it gives me the time to look forward on 2015 project planning, trails master planning, and focus on other long-term projects. The hope is this will allow us to hit the ground running in spring as soon as the snow melts to get summer trails ready, instead of playing catch up.
Q: What partners do you rely on the most to overcome these challenges?
A: I rely heavily on our mechanics to keep our equipment going. The town’s fleet division does a fantastic job, and our mechanics really keep us rolling.
The road crew is currently helping prepare the ice rink, and I work with them regularly on plowing operations (for example deciding where to stock pile snow so it doesn’t impeded the road or trails). I also work with the Nordic Council to coordinate grooming schedules.
During big snow and wind events, our groomer can’t move through certain spaces, so the Nordic Council will come in with their snow cat and open up a path. They’re always available to help out.
Q: What do you and your team like to do in your time off during the winter?
A: I want to ski a powder day this year. Last year if it was snowing, I was working. This year I’ll have some time to enjoy the mountain.
Q: What can we look forward to next year?
A: All new trail signage has all been designed, laid out, and is ready to go in the ground next year. This project was a huge undertaking but it helped us get a lot of information organized. The new signs will be a great upgrade for users next year because they will make it a lot more intuitive for tourists and locals to get around. We’re also working on a new trail map for 2015 which will be a big upgrade.