Deferred Stewardship Commitment

Deferred maintenance is a bland term that results in a wealth of ills, principally the steady degradation of a resource. It occurs because of a lack of funding and/or competing budgetary needs and priorities that are considered more important and/or have more powerful and vocal constituencies. Prominent examples include Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park in Newburgh, NY, and Washington Park In Milwaukee, WI. At both parks, understory vegetation is overgrown, the aging tree canopy is in decline, their water features have degraded, among the many problems each faces. Pushing off maintenance of a park or similar resource to a later date can result in an ever-accelerating decline: erosion, siltation of water bodies, aggressive and unbridled growth of invasive species, loss of habitat, infestation, diminished lifespan of the tree canopy, along with structural failures of roads, paths and trails, seating, buildings, and similar built features all of which can impact overall safety and accessibility.

Image Alt Text Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park, Newburgh, New York, 2021. Photo by Charles A. Birnbaum.

A neighborhood park may receive bare minimum maintenance such as grass mowing and garbage collection, while water, sewer, electrical, and other necessities are left unattended. Collectively, this could result in the equivalent of multiple organ failure that calls for immediate, drastic, and likely expensive interventions. Consistent, timely, and appropriate maintenance is essential to the health and life of parks and similar resources. Moreover, a well-maintained park is a place where the public feel safe and welcome.