Parks pay the price after Virginia Beach falls into groundskeeping staff shortage

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — If you live in Virginia Beach, you might have noticed your neighborhood park is becoming overgrown with grass and weeds, or maybe it already is.

The weeds at Sawyer Lakes Estates Park were knee-high — and that upset residents.

On Wednesday, 10 On Your Side asked the city what’s keeping them from mowing parks like Sawyer Lakes Estates before they get overgrown.

Their answer? There’s no one to send, or at least not enough of them.

Parks and recreation spokeswoman Julie Braley said the department is down 31% in their groundskeeping positions.

“It’s definitely due to COVID,” said Braley. “But it’s also just what people are experiencing across the country and across industries. There is just this shortage of staff and the ability for people to work.”

This makes the ability to maintain your neighborhood park a lot harder. The city tried hiring outside help, but was met with the same reality.

“We’re definitely behind on our mowing schedule and it’s a result of staffing, understaffing,” said Braley. “We also work with a lot of contractors landscape businesses, things like that, but they’re also experiencing the same shortages that we are. So between us and the contractors, we cant keep up with the mowing schedule.”

Full-time city employees qualify for a variety of benefits when it comes to leave, retirement, financial and health.

If you’d like to learn more about the city’s groundskeeper position, click here.

Although some people are frustrated, Sawyer Lakes Estates resident Don Mahanor isn’t surprised.

“I can believe it,” said Mahanor. “Just try to buy a car today. Go try to buy a boat, go try to buy something that’s mechanical, or find a food service. All those industries are hit hard, and I’m sure the city has a really hard time maintaining their staffing level.”

Braley understands some residents are inconvenienced but is asking for everyone to be patient with the employees who are showing up.

“You’ll definitely see the grass a little overgrown in certain areas, it’s unfortunate,” she said. “We do our best. Our staff is working so hard. They are really trying to keep up. Everyone is stretched thin and we really appreciate everyone who is coming to work and showing up and trying to provide the services and trying to keep the city looking beautiful, but we need more people. Be patient, be kind, be courteous, and just understand that we’re doing the best that we can.”

There are more than just groundskeeping jobs the city needs to be filled. Braley said that childcare workers, aquatics positions, and other departments are also understaffed. If you’d like to apply to work for the city of Virginia Beach, click here.

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