The Women Running Tacoma’s Parks – The Suburban Times
Submitted by Metro Parks Tacoma.
On a dark winter morning, when the rest of us are probably deep under the covers, three women arrive at work. Wearing hats, thick gloves and rain gear, they open park gates, check restrooms, prune roses, dig weeds, pour concrete and dozens of other tasks. They watch the sun rise, often alone, but sometimes wave to others as they stroll through the park.
And in the summer they start again – an hour earlier.
They are the park workers of Metro Parks Tacoma. They are not numerous and they would like that to change. But they love their work and take pride in doing work that challenges them and creates beauty and peace.
Here, in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, are their stories.
Miranda Hemlee, garden worker at Point Defiance
Term: Five years, including Point Defiance Park, Dune Peninsula and Ruston Way Parks
Working at Point Defiance Gardens is kind of a dream come true for me. I actually had a completely different career, in restaurants, but I had to change after having a baby. When I moved to Tacoma I fell in love with Point Defiance – hiked here every weekend, brought my dog here. I worked for a local nursery and then got maintenance jobs at Dune Peninsula and other Ruston Way parks. When this position appeared, I thought, why not? So I went there.
Being part of the gardening team is tough, but amazing. What I prefer are the people. They’ll say hello to you as they stroll, come ask questions about pruning or plant care, and I can help them get inspired and take care of their own gardens. In this job, I’m learning all the time, but I’m also teaching, and that’s what I love.
As a female worker, there are certainly challenges in what is sometimes a male-dominated workplace. I’m short, I don’t weigh much, so it can be intimidating. But I still do things. When you don’t have mass to do the job, you get creative. And unlike some of my male colleagues, I can easily crawl under bushes to trim or weed! I think women also bring a different view of working in parks: we tend to be good at the details, the aesthetic part. I would like to see more diversity in this work, especially women and young people.
I also like the calm. We start at 7am in the winter, 6:30am in the summer, and some of the most magical times are in the fall or winter when the weather is at its worst. People have no idea how lucky we are in this job. We are in a long line of gardeners, leaving our mark and caring for such a beautiful historic place. We are stewards of the land, making a difference in Tacoma. I think women are naturally gatekeepers to their community, and that’s exactly what I’m doing here.
Carol Brouillette: Point Defiance Gardens Worker (part-time)
Term: Eight months
I actually started working in the parks as a social studies teacher at the Mathematics and Science Institute (SAMi, the high school inside Point Defiance Park). I took a summer job supervising students in the Nature Conservancy’s LEAF Internship Program, and it had a huge impact on me. When Point Defiance Park’s maintenance manager recruited me for the job, I took the plunge.
It’s 29 hours a week; three eight-hour days and one five-hour day. I start at 7:30 a.m., and at 5 a.m. some days in the summer. It can be rough! But someone has to be there to open doors and toilets, pick up trash, and prepare the park for visitors. And I can watch the sunrise, which is amazing.
The rest of the time I prune, weed, clean, do whatever is necessary. My favorite part is working with Japanese maples, like when you break off dead parts to keep them airy and protected from heavy snow. And carve the black pines of Japan in the shape of clouds. There are so many ways to work with plants that I could never have imagined! I can also climb trees, which I hadn’t done since I was a child. This is so cool. Our big goal this spring was to rebuild the rose arbor, which I love.
Being a woman in this profession is different from being a teacher, which is a profession full of women and the group support that brings. I’m really happy to work with Miranda! The few women I’ve worked with in this role seem a little quicker to ask for and offer help and collaborate that way, helping each other with heavy lifting and organizing that kind of work. team at the moment. But overall, what women bring to this job is the same as men: a strong work ethic, concern and consideration for the safety and comfort of park visitors, and pride in their work. .
Also, as someone who asks visitors to leave Five Mile Drive at the end of the day, I’m maybe a little more approachable than a beefy dude! I wish there were more women here – it’s such fantastic and great work for women. People need to know that.
April Trujillo, worker at Dune Peninsula, Waterwalk and Ruston Way parks
Term: 13 months
I like this job. When I heard about it, my first thought was that I didn’t have the experience – I thought it was just about setting up benches and pouring concrete, that sort of thing. But Metro Parks was on my bucket list, so I applied, and now that I’ve done the job, it’s not so daunting anymore. Maybe I’m not as strong as the others, but the parks team is really helpful and I learned to do all those things I never thought I could do.
My day starts at 6 or 6:30. I meet with the crew to plan what needs to be done, then go to Dune Peninsula Park and check on the quality of the toilets and other work being done by the seasonal staff. We assess the landscape: sometimes there are sprinkler heads to replace, floor slides to repair, jobs like that. We just completely cleaned the clover sculpture garden, ready for sowing wildflowers this spring.
I also work at other Ruston Way parks, but am a little obsessed with Dune. Being a peninsula it is completely surrounded by water and I often see eagles, whales or harbor seals. I also read the books that gave it its name, and I actually studied the Superfund cleanup project in my environmental degree. It’s a really neat full circle! We are now working to complete the original landscape design, which is great.
Women who work in parks, or in any job, tend to bring different communication skills to men. We are very adaptable. I would like to see more women doing this job, having the courage to try these things. It’s really worth it.
WORK IN OUR PARKS: Metro Parks is hiring park maintenance staff! Find the list of positions and apply at metroparkstacoma.org/careers.