Jun 16, 2022 - News

Twin Cities parks are short staffed and need workers

Tall grass in a Minneapolis park
Overgrown grass on Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

If local parks are looking a bit shaggy, it's not some new #NoMowJune campaign.

What's happening: Park systems across the metro are struggling to hire seasonal workers who do everything from cut grass, paint ballfields, empty trash cans, clean restrooms and pick up after events.

Why it matters: The Twin Cities has excellent parks and it's no fun when the grass is knee-high and bathrooms are dirty.

What's happening: St. Paul Parks and Recreation normally hires 55 to 60 summer park workers. Right now it has 17, said Andy Rodriguez, director of the department.

  • The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's seasonal park maintenance staff is down 70% from where it should be. It can't even get enough mobile equipment operators β€” lawn mowers β€” who are paid nearly $25 an hour to start, said Jeff Evenson, director of asset management for MPRB.
  • Three Rivers Park District is almost up to full employment, but it's had to change its staffing model, said human resources manager Mike Tracy. It used to hire people who wanted to work four or five days a week, but now it's finding applicants β€” particularly teens β€” are looking to just work two or three days a week.

What they're doing about it: St. Paul is well beyond the normal 10-14 day cycle of cutting grass, "If there's spots we hear about that are needing immediate attention, we do our best to get out there as quick as we can," Rodriguez said.

  • Minneapolis has reduced lining ball fields, stopped weed whipping as much and mowing less, Evenson said.

The big picture: Seasonal worker shortages go beyond just parks. Lifeguards are scarce, restaurants are having a hard time getting staffed and resorts need help.

  • These basic park worker jobs typically start between $13 and $17 an hour at most departments, but some fast food restaurants, big box retailers and distribution centers offer more.
  • "You might make another dollar or two or more working at McDonald's or something but we have the best office you can ask for in terms of being outside and and working with great people and enjoying the beautiful Minnesota summer," Tracy said.
  • "You get all the free Vitamin D you can handle," Evenson said.

Job listings for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Three Rivers.

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