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"What we're really looking at is just sort of putting parks on hold and hoping that we can find ways to fill in in the meantime with volunteers," said Susan Montauk, chair of the Oakland Parks Coalition, which promotes citizen stewardship of Oakland parks. "But volunteers aren't supposed to be doing the work that gardeners do. ... It's overwhelming."
Oakland's tree services division is similarly hampered after losing 40 percent of its workforce in recent years, but will lose even more without employee concessions and the parcel tax. Crews are currently limited to performing emergency work only, to the detriment of preventative maintenance and public safety. In July, the division is set to lose another nine jobs, leaving it with a grand total of ten employees, or approximately one per 25,000 street trees. The move would save the city $1 million, but leave it with insufficient tree trimmers and drivers to handle even emergency work.
"Literally, we'll have sufficient staff to handle tree emergencies during regular business hours, and after-hours we'll probably have to contract out to an emergency contractor," said Parks and Building Services Manager Jim Ryugo, who oversees both park and tree maintenance. "We are entering into an area where we've never been before."
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