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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County parks may look a bit unkempt this summer due to staffing shortages

Bill Clark, 69, of Chattaroy gets a squirt of water in the face from his great-granddaughter Mari Wagner, 8, as they play July 20, 2020 in the Little Spokane River during their visit to Pine River Park in north Spokane County. The county parks department is short-staffed this summer, so expect to see taller grass, disheveled shrubs and more port-a-potties.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County’s parks department is short-staffed, so expect to see tall grass, disheveled shrubs and portable toilets this summer.

Doug Chase, director of the county’s parks, recreation and golf department, told the county commissioners last week that his office has only hired five seasonal employees. In a normal year, he’d have 20.

“We’re just finding it very difficult to compete out there,” Chase said.

The labor shortage will have consequences. The county won’t be able to maintain parks and facilities to the usual standards.

“If we’re short many, many, many sets of hands, there’s certain things we won’t be able to do as timely or as frequently,” Chase said.

Without enough workers, the parks department has to be strategic.

For instance, Chase said the county plans to mow parks every other week instead of once a week. Parks staff won’t trim trees and shrubs, or fertilize and aerate grass. Parks restrooms will mostly close and be replaced with portable toilets, which can be maintained by private contractors.

Chase said he doesn’t expect the county will have to reduce its levels of service forever.

“We are looking at this as a temporary setback, one that we’re actively working to cure, to improve upon,” Chase said. “We’re hopeful that the community will be understanding and provide a little additional patience in light of what we’re working through.”

The Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf Department is short-staffed this summer. That worker shortage will mean reduced levels of service at county parks.