Special to the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Preseason baseball and softball games began in Effingham County last week on fields prepared by a Parks & Landscape department that is always in midseason form.
In addition to athletic fields at multiple locations, the department tends to the grounds at Effingham County Judicial Complex and its surroundings, the Effingham County Animal Shelter, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office/Jail, the Clyo Community Center, five boat ramps, 13 fire departments, and much, much more. It cares for 264 total acres.
“Basically, we’ve got two departments inside one department,” Parks & Landscape Director Seth Zeigler said.
Eight workers spend an average of 54 hours per man on landscaping. They are aided by a few inmates, making the average coverage area 33 acres per man.
The total weekly man hours in county parks is 433. That’s 54.8 hours per man.
“If you throw a rainy day in there, we are behind the eight ball before we even get started,” Zeigler said.
Parks & Landscape crews devote the most time to the Clarence Morgan Complex and Sand Hill Complex, where about 22 games per night are played during baseball and softball season. Each complex covers 50 acres.
The workers use rotary mowers to cut the grass at most county locations.
“Those are like the ones you have at your house,” Zeigler said.
Athletic fields are trimmed by reel mowers, which are the kind used on golf courses.
“We’ve only have two of them,” said Zeigler, who maintained golf courses before accepting his current job. “They give more of the precision type of cut that we want. A rotary mower will cut nice but you can’t beat a reel mower.”
Athletic fields require more than just mowing. Fertilization and weed control are also vital.
“We put pre-emergent (herbicide) out,” Zeigler said.
Chris McDouglas was dispatched one morning last week to spread herbicide at Pineora’s ballfields and park. Meanwhile, Jack Dineen, riding a machine built for the task, was busy raking the soggy Morgan Complex fields.
“Grass is easy to mow,” Zeigler said, “but there are things about it that you have to understand. You have to understand the weather – has it rained or has it not? Is (a field) dry or is it hard?”
Having the proper amount of “conditioner” is the key to having a suitable field, Zeigler said.
“In layman’s terms, that’s kitty litter,” he explained. “… Basically, it’s an absorbent that you put on the field to help condition the field so that, after a rain, it is playable.”
Parks & Landscape stays busy even when the grass doesn't grow in the fall and winter.
“It’s the leaves. Leaves are almost as bad as the grass,” Zeigler said. “At certain times of the year, you are blowing, mulching, or raking them and that takes even longer than mowing.”
Parks & Landscape also picks up trash in outdoor receptacles at county facilities.
“Usually, (Parks & Recreation) takes care of the inside of the buildings and we take care of the outside,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler, an Effingham County native, is excited about the future of local facilities. Parks and recreation are a focus as the Board of Commissioners works on its master plans.
“There’s a lot of good things that are fixing to happen in the parks-and-rec area,” Zeigler said. “I’m glad to be part of it.”
A public hearing will soon be conducted to learn what that public wants in its parks.