Along with K-12 public schools, public parks face a rash of security issues, including the ongoing battle with graffiti.
“Graffiti is often used out here as an art form, and some of them are gang-related, whether it’s restrooms or barrier walls,” Dobbs says. “What we try to do is paint over them by the following day or wash them down. But we have other security issues where we have people breaking into restrooms just to have a place to stay overnight. Many times, they’ll damage the doors, and we have to replace the locking mechanism. Or they’ll do some damage inside the restrooms, such as to the commodes and the sinks, and then we have to replace those.”
To help with graffiti and related issue, the department has brought in outside help.
“What we’ve done is hire a night security service to come out seven days a week, and they give us a report on what’s been happening in the parks. Many times, they’ll work with the police department, and if they see something doing down, they’ll call the police to make sure we get the situation taken care of.
“That’s been a godsend for us. We’ll get reports from the security service, and we’ll also send our detail guys out — our seasonal employees — and they’re responsible for litter control and restroom cleanup. If they see graffiti, they have their cleaning supplies with them. If it’s a fairly large piece of artwork, we’ll bring out our trailer-mounted steam washer to steam-clean the wall.”
Many areas of the country have been experiencing water shortages in recent decades, but nowhere it the issue more acute than in California. For Dobbs and his staff, public expectations about the appearances of parks makes the challenge especially tough.
“A lot more people are moving out here, and they expect their lawns to look like they do in the East. We can’t have that,” he says. “So irrigation is a very big challenge. We’ve gone through a series of droughts in California, and we’re having to monitor our water supply so that we’re more effective and efficient. The park district deals with three different water companies. In Sacramento alone, we have about 15 different water companies.”
In response to the water shortages, the state of California has imposed tight water restrictions that complicate the issue further for Dobbs and his staff.
“Mandates and restrictions on water use have presented quite a few challenges,” he says. “Most of the water that’s available goes to agriculture, and the percentage that is left over is shared among businesses and residential areas.
“What the parks have been asked to do is reduce our water use. Three or four years ago, we were under a mandate to reduce water use by 35 percent, which is pretty significant. We were able to do it, but we had to educate the public that the grass in the parks might not be what you’re used to seeing all the time. We did prioritize that our recreational fields have more water, and other areas would be downsized in terms of water application.”
Dobbs also has turned to technology to help with the water conservation issues.
“The nice thing about (the water shortage) is that it caused us to rethink how we irrigate,” he says. “We started to put in flow meters and master control valves, wireless controls on each one of our controllers, and we communicate with laptops and iPads or cell phone.
”My irrigation techs can be at home, and they can receive a call that there’s a water line breakage. They can isolate the water line and turn off the water via their phone without having to spend an hour or two coming in and then searching for the problem.”
Grounds: Utility Vehicle, Water and Security Issues
Grounds: The Graffiti Battle
Grounds: Successful Soil Strategy