By Annette Hinkle
Jeff Robinson, the park manager of Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor talks about keeping the park green and clean.
You’re starting your third season as park manager and replaced Joe Burns when he retired after more than 20 years in the position. What was the transition like?
The park board loved Joe – but they thought it was time to get someone in here who was a little younger with a little more energy. Joe was so humble and handed me the reins of the park. He said, “You’re in charge of the park now, so you do what’s best.”
And when it comes to the park, what’s best?
Keeping it clean, taking care of it, encouraging people to use it as a place for meeting people when they’re here — just giving them a place to have recreation. The park is wonderful, to me it’s such a community park – there’s an ownership with the people of Sag Harbor — there’s no problems with graffiti. This is their park and I’m proud to see what goes on here.
Tell me about your background and how it fits into this job.
I have a BS in recreation and leisure management and went to Michigan State for its grass turf program —–the agronomy and soil science. That’s where my golf course background came from and that’s what first brought me to this area. I was looking to get out of golf courses and combining the two degrees seemed like a natural fit.
The education helps me with the IPM – Integrated Pest Management — and we’re doing things here naturally. It’s all about being green and trying to do things organically the best we can.
With golf courses, the threshold is impossible to maintain. I call it the Augusta look – it’s so manicured you can’t have one weed out there. But it’s not natural. Here at the park, clover is ok. It fixes nitrogen by itself. Dandelions are not a big deal either. It’s grass, it always recovers and unlike golf courses, there are no chemicals here. Any fertilizer we use is organic so it’s a safer environment.
The fields look great — you definitely know what you’re doing.
I like to keep it nice for JV and Pierson varsity — it’s their home field. The kids recognize what a great field they have and that’s something from my background I can bring.
What are some of the highlights of your day?
I see kids learning how to ride bikes every day. I get to see that and because I have a 5 year old daughter, experience it.
The park setting is so wonderful. I’ve got an osprey nest for an office. The park abuts the Greenbelt Trail. The trail heads begin here – its just a great nature center and we encourage that.
Now that it’s warming up, what kind of events will be here at the park?
It’ll be summer time soon — we have the great summer camp — it might be $20 if not free and is the cheapest camp around. The park tries to provide those opportunities. There’s also the tennis program and the Whalers collegiate baseball team that plays here and the men’s softball league.
We have the handball wall, which is a great tennis practice area. There are so many things that go underused — the trails, there’s also horseshoes and shuffleboard here. We have some of the equipment, but it hasn’t been used in so long. That’s something I’d like someone to say, “Can we play shuffleboard?” I’d say “Have at it.”
I think its important to know you don’t have to come and spend money here. It’s a free place to recreate, come with the family — we have a picnic area that barely gets used. I got 20 picnic tables — I would love for people to come use them.
I also just put up a couple tether ball courts too.
Tether ball! I remember that game. But I always wondered, are there any actual rules?
Have fun, that’s the rule.