Robert McFarland's straw hat shielded him from the bright sun one day last week as he raked debris away from a circle of yellow daffodils on the historic Stepney Green. A few feet away, fellow Parks & Recreation employee John Bevis shoveled around a small tree and heaved the dirt into the back of a town truck.
Supervisor, Russell Tice, said his small crew was cleaning up the debris and edging around the plantings on the green, adding the next job would include seeding and mulching.
Joel Leneker and Lee Hossler of the Save Our Stepney Task Force (SOS) are excited by Parks & Recreation Dir. Frank Cooper's efforts to beautify the green on their side of town.
"The daffodils are spectacular this year," Leneker told Cooper in an email. "I hope we can keep all of them and add tons more around the gazebo on the green."
SOS had planted the daffodils, but Leneker is grateful to Parks & Recreation for maintaining the plantings.
Hossler says Connecticut Department of Transportation statistics show that over 20,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of routes 25 and 59 every day.
"This is by far the busiest area in Monroe," he said. "Of course the Stepney Green is in this section of Route 25."
During an interview in his Monroe Town Hall office, Cooper said, "We're focusing greater attention on high visibility areas. It should look like something you would be proud for people to see."
Of Stepney Green, Cooper said, "I think it's owed a lot more attention at this point and we want to improve its appearance."
Maintaining Town Properties
Outside town hall, yellow tape cordoned off an area alongside a section of sidewalk where grass seed had been planted. Cooper said work crews are seeding barren areas and over-seeding others to thicken the grass.
The Parks & Recreation Department is well known for maintaining Wolfe Park and its Great Hollow Lake section, but Cooper says his crews do so much more than that.
"We have to take care of town properties," he said. "During the winter it's snow removal on sidewalks and parking lots. What we're responsible for, in general, is the senior center, town hall, the library and the police department."
Cooper said his crews also mow the grass at The Beardsley Homestead on Great Ring Road and on traffic triangles such as the one at the corner where Elm Street meets Fan Hill and Turkey Roost roads.
The Board of Finance had asked if the Parks & Recreation Department can also manage the grass areas around some of the town-owned firehouses, according to Cooper.
"We don't have the manpower for that, but if they increase it [we can] look into that," he said.
During the budget workshops this year, Cooper said he tried to educate Town Council and Board of Finance members as to exactly what Park & Rec.'s responsibilities are.
"I want them to understand what our responsibilities are — and I think they do," he said.
A Master Gardener
Last week, Cooper was interviewing candidates for a part-time, seasonal master gardener position, which he said will be paid for through existing part-time wages.
"The job is to plan, manage and maintain gardens that are on town property," Cooper said.
He said the Agricultural Station in Bethel had put out a notice of the Monroe job listing to people in its Master Gardener program.
"I've gotten 10 people calling or emailing about the position already," Cooper said with a smile, adding a woman was waiting outside his office for her interview at that very moment.