Behind the Scenes at Prospect Park with Karen LeRiche, Park Supervisor & Turf Crew Supervisor
If you were to meet Karen LeRiche in person the last thing you would think this petite, jovial woman would manage was turf. But it is true, Karen is the Park’s Turf Crew Supervisor and she loves her job. From restoring lawn damage due to seasonal wear and tear to landscaping to equipment maintenance, she takes a lot of pride in making sure Prospect Park’s beauty will last for generations to come.
How did you train for this job?
When I was offered the job I didn’t know anything about turf except for the fact I mowed my parent’s grass as a child growing up. But I was given the opportunity to attend Groundskeeper Management Academy in Connecticut to learn how to tend to park land. From that training I learned all I needed to know about turf and ballfield maintenance.
How long have you worked here?
As of May 26 will have worked here for 25 years- but who’s counting? I spent seven years as a Park Ranger and Supervisor and the remainder of the time with Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and Turf.
What's your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job would have to be observing the wildlife- the non-human wildlife, that is. I enjoy watching the raccoons, possums, chipmunks and even the frogs.
What’s your least favorite?
My least favorite part of my job is that people love the lawns to death- literally. Even Olmsted and Vaux had this problem when the Park first opened. We put up signs and fence off areas to let damaged areas recover but too often people ignore it. We understand that people want to play but the grass needs time to heal and recover, especially during the fall and winter and when the grass is wet (wet soil compacts quicker making it harder for grass to grow). If we close off a section, it’s because we have the Park’s long-term care at heart and we want the lawns to last for future generations.
What is a typical day like for you?
After I give my small crew their assignments I usually take a spin through the park assessing what needs to be mown, weed-whacked, or what lawns need to be repaired. I also check the activity on the ballfields. If all is going well then I will pick a project that I can work on to help the crew, such as repairing lawn damage, taking out a push power or my weed whacker. Additionally, I respond to calls concerning equipment that has broken down, injured animals, and employees who need assistance.
Park-goers will also flag me down while driving on my “Workman” truck seeking directions, information about the Park, or to report just about anything that goes on in the Park they may be concerned about.
What do you normally do in the winter to help the Park get ready for spring?
In the winter months to get ready for spring I have a list of things we do. That list includes:
Focusing on repairing lawn damage, e.g. reseeding, filling in the holes, etc.
Raking leaves and twigs from ballfields and other areas
Cutting and removing branches from lawns
Organizing group projects for landscaping. (We sometimes partner with Volunteer Corps to recruit volunteers)
Prepping ballfields for opening day- which this year is April 6
Making sure lawns look as nice as possible
What’s your favorite part of the Park and why?
My absolute favorite part of the Park is the Boathouse and Lullwater area. It is such a beautiful section of the Park. It amazes me during bird migration time. If I could watch it all day long, I would! I’m very fond of this area of the park, I really am.