Monday, February 29, 2016
Better Know A City Employee: Pat Donnelly
James Brown was known as the hardest working man in showbiz. After our conversation this week, we're going to start referring to Park Superintendent Pat Donnelly as the hardest working man in New Buffalo.
Pat started with the Parks Department in August of 2013. A lifelong New Buffalo resident, Pat graduated from Western Michigan in 2006, and when the opportunity to combine both his love of the outdoors with his love of his hometown, he took the plunge.
On a Saturday in the summer, the day starts at 7 am. First the beach needs to be raked and picked up. Then it's into a car to drive to various locations throughout the city, the boat launch, the marina, Sari Asher Memorial Dog Park, Oselka Park. The goal is to make sure all these places are clean and staffed by 10 am, or as Pat said, "make sure all the tops are spinning."
Then comes the fun part. Traffic. Boat traffic, car traffic, trailers, pedestrians, the sheer number of people and vehicles on a Saturday can be overwhelming. In addition to managing the daily operation of the parks, Pat and his crew also get called into duty to help at the various events and festivals that take place throughout the city. Putting up fences, taking out trash, managing traffic, and numerous other responsibilities fall to the Parks Department.
Thankfully, Pat is something of a glutton for punishment. When we asked him what his favorite part of the job was, he replied "I kind of like when the beach is packed and we've got a lot of events going on." He said that for the most part, people who are coming to visit New Buffalo are down to have a good time. Take the Marina for example, which currently has 31 slips that are more or less booked solid for the majority of July and August. While it can sometimes feel like running a hotel in addition to all of the other jobs on his plate, Pat says that the majority of the people are here to tie up, cook-out, relax, and have a good time.
Despite what already appears to be be a pretty exhausting day of work, Pat still manages to find time to do big picture stuff as well. He reports to both the Parks Board as well as the Harbor Commission. Together they are tackling a number of issues, including rebuilding the dune walk, creating a bird patrol to help deal with fowl droppings, new electric pedestals at the marina, picnic benches, some new tree plantings, and a community garden at Oselka Park. As Pat says, "there's a lot of great ideas floating out there, and we want to try to harness some of these ideas. Let's see what we can't do to get some of these ideas off the ground."
Pat thinks that the city has done a good job of improving the parks, with the work they've done on the dune walk stairs being a big one. They've repainted quite a few buildings and have a lot more in the works, although he admits that there is still room for improvements. "I want to see a lot of our buildings improved, especially the beach and the beach concession stand. We've got kind of a run-down look right now. You can only use so much paint before it's time to start thinking about upgrading. We spend a lot of time cleaning. The bathrooms are always clean. The beach is always clean. But theres only so much cleaning you can do". He went on to mention that the sheer number of people that visit the New Buffalo beach over the course of the year can take it's toll on the facilities.
Yet they are constantly looking for grants that might help offset the costs of some of these improvements. At the end of the day, the Parks Department "likes to be as beneficial to the city as possible, just do our part to help out". In that respect, they have been very successful. Many thanks to Pat for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us, as well as all his hard work in making the beach and the parks a great place for visitors and locals alike. Until next time, this has been Better Know A City Employee.