Mass. State Parks Facing Worker Shortage, Union Says

The union that represents DCR employees said there are too many management jobs and not enough frontline workers, leaving workers stretched thin on everything from traffic control to cleanup to landscaping

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The unions that represent workers at the Department of Conservation and Recreation in Massachusetts are sounding the alarm about the lack of staff at state parks. It’s a problem that could grow with the summer season quickly approaching.

On a picture-perfect June day, Aleksandra Komlenic and Jessica Pereira say Lake Cochituate is just where they want to be.

"It’s a great way to enjoy the summer," said Komlenic. "Especially with the great weather that we’ve been having lately."

But they don’t feel they’re seeing enough DCR employees keeping watch on such a vast area.

"They do have people driving around throughout the day but not as much as they should," said Pereira. "There’s a lot of people that don’t follow the rules. “There definitely should be more staff on the beach area. There’s a lot of children swimming alone."

The union that represents DCR employees said there are too many management jobs and not enough frontline workers.

"For an outdoor recreation agency we seem to not have a lot of people that are outdoors," said Brad Gallant, president of AFSCME Local 2948.

He said staffers are being stretched thin to do everything from traffic control to trash removal to landscaping.

"Just in my location itself I’ve got 235 campsites," said Gallant. "I should have 30 people including year-round and seasonal and I’m going to try to function with 16."

Doug Pizzi, who runs the non-profit group Massachusetts Conservation Voters, which advocates for state parks, said DCR needs more money.

 "Their operations budget in FY20 was about $4- to $4.5-million less than it was in FY09," said Pizzi.

He said now is the time to increase funding drastically, especially at a time when interest in the outdoors has skyrocketed because of the pandemic.

"It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," said Pizzi. "And shame on us if we don’t take advantage of that."

Jim Durkin, legislative director for AFSCME Council 93, said DCR is down 300 jobs since 2009.

He said increased funding is key, as long as it goes to parks themselves, and not to management positions.

DCR did not respond to questions about general staffing issues, but did note that it’s hiring hundreds of lifeguards for the summer season and is continuing to recruit.

DCR said jobs fluctuate depending on the type of year, and there are available positions as park rangers, park interpreters, supervisors, pool managers, bird monitors, forestry assistants, and maintenance workers.

Those interested in applying for a lifeguard position can learn more here.

Information on other jobs is available here.

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