On the Record
Jun 02, 2009 | 19632 views | 0 0 comments | 789 789 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Next time you see Jeffrey Karl, thank him, because it's likely he's responsible for the pristine condition of your favorite neighborhood park. In Western Queens' District Five, anyway, where Karl works as the parks manager in charge of maintaining parks big and small for the outdoor lovers among us.

Karl, who fittingly appears at community meetings in boots, checked shirts, and beard to report on the state of his parks, said the satisfaction he gets from working outdoors everyday is thanks enough.

"I really enjoy maintaining green spaces for people to relax in," said Karl, who encouraged city dwellers to spend time outside especially with the warm weather here to stay. "I'm very supportive of people getting outdoors."

Karl certainly practices what he preaches. Born in central New Jersey, Karl volunteered at his local firehouse and is a registered state firefighter and inspector. Following his graduation from Rutgers University with a degree in Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, Karl spent a season as a forest firefighter on an elite Hotshot crew in the Rocky Mountain area before moving to the east coast and settling in New York City, where he landed a job as a borough forester in Manhattan with the Parks and Recreation Department.

Karl became District Five manager in 2008. The district he oversees covers the same general area covered by Community Board Five and includes 50 properties, Karl said. They range in size from Juniper Valley Park to smaller parks, playgrounds, and green streets, among other open spaces. He said the hardest aspect of his job is protecting the parks from the public who use them.

"The biggest challenge would be [monitoring] the general public's stewardship of the properties," said Karl. "We have a lot of vandalism and graffiti" done mostly by kids in the evenings after school, he said. To right this, Karl said, "I reach out to parents and tell them to know what their kids are doing when they go into parks."

For the most part, however, Karl said he focused on beautifying open spaces for residents who need nature getaways from big city life.

"We're losing touch with our natural surroundings," Karl said. "I feel a lot satisfaction connecting people back to that."

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