Meet a Parkie
There are thousands of us working out there delivering excellent parks and open spaces with a vast array of skills, with those in operations, developing strategy or delivering projects. Every month we will ask someone in the sector to share their experiences and career, along with their hopes for the future.
Meet Steve Skinner – Operations Manager from St Austell Town Council
How did you get into parks?
At the age of 17 I started working for East Looe Town Trust in Cornwall, helping to maintain the beach and adjoining sections of the South West Coast Path. I instantly fell in love with working outdoors and helping to keep public spaces looking good. Fortunately, the trust offered to put me through a Countryside Management and Environmental Conservation course at Duchy College and the rest is history!
How long have you worked in parks and tell us a bit about your career here?
2023 will be my 18th year in parks, and 22nd year working in public spaces. In 2005 I took the plunge and applied for a Grounds Maintenance role at nearby Callington Town Council.
I spent 11 wonderful years there looking after around 6 parks and open spaces, and like countless others in this industry, with little resource we had to be Jacks of all trades! From operating a small nursery growing 3,000 plants a year for the town’s floral displays, to play equipment maintenance, construction, grass cutting, and tree works. I really cut my teeth there and gained many qualifications, eventually ending up as Head Groundsman at the age of 32.
In 2016, I was offered the opportunity to join St Austell Town Council as their Operations Manager, a huge challenge that both excited me and terrified me in equal measure!
Greatest achievement and challenge in parks?
Taking the role of Operations Manager at St Austell was a unique opportunity in that at that point in time, the council were in the process of taking ownership of 17 parks and open spaces, a car park, public toilets, and responsibility for cutting 10 miles of Highways verges in a huge devolution deal from Cornwall Council (they did not even own a shovel, let alone possess a fully functioning parks department!) My only remit in those first few months was to recruit a team and procure equipment, quickly!
Not many of us in the industry get the opportunity to build an entire department from scratch, even fewer of us get carte blanche to do it how we see fit, so I count myself very lucky to be sitting here 7 years later reflecting on how far we have come and feeling very lucky to have such a great team of staff doing an incredible job on our parks every day.
If you had a money tree in your local park, what would you spend the fruits of the tree on?
More horticulture, replacement play equipment, more staff!
What do you do outside of work?
Outside of work, fitness is my thing so lots of running and gym-going. I’m also dad to 2 amazing boys who keep me and my wife on our toes!
Any advice for anyone considering a career in parks?
Do it! It is not without its challenges and not the best pay (you’ll probably never be able to buy that apartment overlooking Monaco marina), but working in the great outdoors and contributing to peoples enjoyment of parks is extremely fulfilling.
Favourite park and why?
Markeaton Park, in my hometown of Derby. I grew up going there and it offers something for everyone, and holds a lot of memories.