A park ranger for Windsor Castle?

Published 1:12 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

By Abby Proch
Staff writer

 Overgrown grass and an overall unkempt appearance of Winsor Castle Park has prompted the Smithfield Town Council to consider hiring a dedicated park maintenance employee/park ranger.

 “The park could look a lot better,” said Councilman Randy Pack at recent Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.

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 Packed rattled off a list of unseemly things: uncut grass, weeds growing through the brick sidewalks, and a storm-damaged tree left untouched for weeks.

 Mayor Carter Williams, who walks the trail almost daily, noted washed-out trails and counted upwards of 50 boards needing replaced on the trail’s bridges and piers.

 The town has not treated the wood with protectant since the wooden structures were built in 2010.

 “If you don’t keep treating it, it’s not going to stay out there,” said Williams.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Williams said he believes it would cost $8,000 to treat the bridge closest to Smithfield Station, but expressed caution about spraying chemicals over Cypress Creek.

 As council members took turns airing grievances about the park’s appearance, Councilwoman Denise Tynes suggested hiring a part-time person dedicated to caring for the park.

 Maintenance employees devote some time to the park, with a portion of their salaries reflected in the park budget, and other parts reflected in other department budgets.

 For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the town budgeted $199,435 for the park and, as of June, spent $153,712.

 For fiscal 2015-2016, the Town Council reduced that budget by 5.5 percent to $188,335.

 The park’s budget includes salaries and benefits insurance, grass cutting, kayak rental expenses, utilities, supplies, repairs and maintenance and professional services.

 The $84,900 in salaries and benefits for 2015-16 is shared among 12 employees who dedicate a portion of their time serving the park. Their work amounts to 1.55 full time employees, according to Treasurer Ellen Minga.

 This past year, professional services included $3,000 to Canada Land Surveying for 301 and 302 Jericho Road and $3,490 to Applied Laboratory Services for asbestos inspection.

 The Town Council agreed the person would be responsible for maintenance, but also serve as a sort of park ranger for visitors who have questions.

 Town Manager Peter Stephenson plans to meet with landscaping contractor Southern Shores to remedy problems related to mowing and tree removal.

 “It was a gift, and we should maintain that gift. And let them know we appreciate that gift,” said Councilman Andrew Gregory.

 Former Smithfield Foods President Joseph Luter III donated more than $7 million to buy the land and turn it into a park.

 Some critics have decried the maintenance of the parks’ historic structures, primarily the manor house.

 The town recently a issued a request for quotation to help resolve moistures issue in the manor house and has hired a contractor to temporarily shore up the outbuildings.