MAYVILLE - Spring is in the air, and that means county parks are ready for business.
However, with only one full-time employee assigned to oversee the county's three parks and four trails, concerns have been raised over the lack of help.
Legislator Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg, addressed the concern during a recent Public Facilities Committee meeting. The longtime county parks commission member brought with him a list of questions to the committee - touching base on volunteer workers, timber sales and maintenance of the county's waterway trails.
"I think we really need to get to the point where we can make some decision on some of these matters because there are a lot of people who are already using some of our park facilities, particularly the trails," Erlandson said. "People are asking questions about what is going to happen to the county parks."
The start of spring only made the discussions more important, Erlandson said.
Starting in January, the parks department trimmed its workforce down to a single employee. That worker is now in charge of clearing debris from trails and general maintenance of the parks system.
"We all know the importance of the parks and we all understand the function of the parks and the service that we provide to the community," said George Spanos, director of the Department of Public Facilities.
Spanos said thanks to a mild winter, many trails have been cleared with help of the transportation division. He noted, however, it doesn't take much to create havoc on the trails.
"Of course, tomorrow we could have high winds and all the trails will be full of limbs again," he said. "But, as we stand today, they are done."
Erlandson said having volunteers help out with work within the county parks creates a dangerous situation, especially when it comes to using gas-powered equipment.
"Mowing has arisen as kind of a dangerous thing for volunteers to do," he said. "I think there are a lot of things that volunteers can do on county parks, particularly pick up ... winter and things of that type, but some of the tasks are more dangerous."
Spanos said there has been talks regarding what work could be done by volunteers and even prisoners. He also suggested volunteer work be delegated down to reporting issues and minor maintenance work such as clearing a trail of debris by hand. To use inmates, however, would require an agreement between the county and the CSEA.
"So, (using) the inmates in my opinion is not an option," Spanos said.
Current agreements between the CSEA and the county allow inmates to clean roads, remove dead deer and even work around the county landfill. A new partnership would need to be approved for work within the parks, Spanos said.
"I am open to any suggestion but within our department we feel comfortable that we can assign people from other divisions to perform the duties," he added.
Erlandson questioned timber sales on county reforestation lands that have been dedicated to capital development of county parks. The legislator asked if the funds from timber sales would continue to fund the parks and if there was a way to channel that revenue for additional personnel.
"We talked about the funding of the parks and we had established a process of all the forestation," Spanos said. "Parks timber sales go towards capital improvement to the parks and we'll continue doing that."
Spanos said timber sales could be used on personnel as long as those charges against the county are used for maintaining the park.
Erlandson said maintaining the county park waterway trails "has been difficult and often dangerous." He said with broken trees and debris, many paddlers are having issues on the waterway trails, most notably Cassadaga Creek.
"We had talked on the county park commission about the problems associated with removing snags and so on, and the Cassadaga Creek portion of the waterway trail is a bigger problem in that regard than the Conewango (Creek)," Erlandson said.
Spanos said the sole parks employee would be out to review the waterway trails.
County parks and trails include: Erlandson Overview Park on Oak Hill Road in Carroll; the Luensman Overview Park on Thayer Road in Portland; Abe Mattison Millrace Park on Everett Street in Falconer; the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail; the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail; the Abe Mattison Millrace Park Trail; and the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail.