A Cup of Joe: Greenspace Guru
7/30/2014 9:07:16 AM
Camp delivers expertise to maintenance of city grounds
By Craig Howard
The theme of greenspace maintenance was sprouting plenty of discussion at Liberty Lake City Hall in December of 2010.
Following the announced retirement of Parks Superintendent Mike Curry and the layoff of longtime Golf Course Superintendent Ron Knudsen, the city introduced the creation of a new position - parks and open space superintendent - that would blend the two roles. As the New Year dawned, Mayor Wendy Van Orman introduced Jennifer Camp as the newest addition to the municipal roster with an official start date of Feb. 1, 2011.
Camp was assigned the formidable task of maintaining citywide grounds as well as Liberty Lake's status as the region's leading clean, green community. She brought an impressive resume to the challenge, including two years at Greenstone as landscape project manager, a job that featured work on terrain throughout Liberty Lake. She also spent time at Greenacres Nursery and a pair of golf venues - Olympia Golf and Country Club on the westside of the state and Manito Golf and Country Club, where she served as arborist.
With a heritage rich in the farmlands of the Palouse, Camp grew up around tractors, combines and wheat trucks. When she was in elementary school, her family moved to East Wenatchee where she gained a further appreciation for rural life and the industrial side of agriculture. She enrolled in Future Farmers of America and worked stacking pallets of fruit in a chilled warehouse space.
Camp graduated from Washington State University in 1998 with a degree in crop and soil sciences. She was also the first woman to complete the school's turf management program. While in Pullman, Camp spent time as a maintenance volunteer at the local golf course and athletic fields, paving the way for her future career. While working at plant nurseries in Pullman, she learned about the relation of materials to landscaping and methods to detect diseases in plants.
In Liberty Lake, Camp oversees an inventory of parks and open space that includes Pavillion Park, Rocky Hill Park and the Trailhead at Liberty Lake Golf Course. The city's ratio of 34.3 acres of greenspace per 1,000 residents far exceeds the state average while the percentage jumps to 79.4 per 1,000 with the addition of Trailhead and the two Spokane County golf courses within municipal limits.
Camp is the proud mom of three kids. Her home also features the start of a small farm with goats, dogs, cats and a rabbit. Camp's border collie mix, "Callie," has become the unofficial parks and open space mascot, known for chasing flocks of geese off the greens and fairways at Trailhead.
Q: What are some of the main responsibilities of the parks and open space superintendent?
A: The main responsibility for the parks and open space superintendent is to ensure that the green spaces around the city, including Rocky Hill Park, Pavillion Park, Trailhead Golf Course and the many open spaces in between, are kept in excellent condition. My team covers the basic maintenance duties such as watering and mowing, but they also perform a significant amount of detail work. In the future, we will also be adding Town Square Park and the new Liberty Lake Ballfields to our list of responsibilities. I have one full-time employee and 19 hardworking seasonals that take great pride in their work. The crew has a dynamic skill set that allows us to strive to achieve the kind of results that make the city look beautiful. I would like to thank the mayor and City Council for their continued support of the parks department, ensuring that we have the resources to accomplish more this year than ever before.
Q: What are some of your duties related to Trailhead Golf Course?
A: My team is responsible for the daily and seasonal maintenance of the course as well as maintaining and troubleshooting an aging irrigation system. We have also made several course alterations that have enhanced the overall play of the course. In conjunction with the course we have also upgraded the driving range and made it into one of the best in the area.
Q: Liberty Lake has an amazing inventory of parks and open space. Do you think most residents appreciate what we have here?
A: I do think the people of Liberty Lake appreciate what they have here, the great trails and parks as well as golf course provide a wonderful atmosphere and excellent area for raising a young family or for relaxing in those later years. The events and activities held at the parks are great and continue to grow year after year.
Q: What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
A: Every day, my team and I are presented with a new variety of challenges, whether it's a maintenance issue, an irrigation breakdown, the challenge of determining the best method to eliminate a problem or how we are going to enhance an existing space. That's the beauty of the job, though; it's always different, and we generally get to see the results of our hard work first hand.
Q: Back to Trailhead. What are some of the characteristics that make this venue unique?
A: Trailhead is seen as a practice facility. It is well known for its outstanding driving range features, and is a great place where new golfers can learn to play, and regulars can relax and enjoy their game. Our signature colors are black and gold and we have tried to incorporate them throughout the golf course from curb edging, to rock borders and even the flower color. Small details like this have really pulled the whole course together and presented a true identifiable course signature.
Q: Everything always looks so green in Liberty Lake. Can you describe some of the logistics that go into the irrigation of the various properties?
A: This year I was able to hire an irrigation tech just to monitor that aspect of the city. As with most things that have multiple moving parts and areas of exposure, things tend to break or need constant maintenance. Our area of responsibility extends from Harvard Road to Rocky Hill Park, from Trailhead Golf Course to Pavillion Park and all the green spaces in between so as you can imagine, as soon as one thing is done another needs to be addressed. Remember though, that green turf means more than just water. Healthy, green turf also comes from a balance of soil fertility, fertilizer types and Mother Nature. It's a bit of an art and a lot of science, just like farming.
Q: What do you like most about your work?
A: I like the fact that I can utilize a career's worth of education and experience to help develop and maintain a beautiful space but also work with my team and pass on what I know and continue to learn from them.
Q: What sort of feedback do you get from residents and visitors to the parks, trails and open space areas?
A: This community takes a lot of pride and ownership in the city parks, trails and open spaces. We feel a great amount of support from our community, council and mayor in what we do every day. I love to hear little stories about visitors coming to our city and commenting on how green, clean and beautiful the city is.