NORFOLK, Va. - Lawn mowing has been deemed an essential service during the pandemic, but some people have questioned whether some areas in the City of Norfolk have had any lawn care at all.
Joseph Jackson of Ghent walks the city streets of Norfolk all the time. Lately, he’s noticed the landscape has been looking a little rough around the edges.
“One thing for sure is we all got really chill and lazy and relaxed about how we take care of our front appearance - from the streets, from the side streets - doesn’t matter,” Jackson said.
The overgrown grass, weeds and trash are hard to miss.
Director of Recreation, Parks and Open Space Darrell Crittendon said despite how some areas look, the city has never stopped mowing the grass. The work is being done a little differently with fewer resources than they’re used to.
The COVID crisis forced the city to work with a skeleton crew.
“We usually mow open space areas on a 12-14-day mowing cycle. That’s 12-14 business days, but we had to actually go to 16-18 days because we had less staff,” said Crittendon.
He said the lockdown put the city in a hiring and spending freeze as it faces a $40 million budget gap.
The city couldn’t bring on an extra 50 seasonal employees, leaving the department’s 60 full-time workers to mow 2,800 acres of public green space.
“You can imagine what it’s like with only 60 full-time people, and they’re all working rotating shifts and a day on and day off because of COVID,” Crittendon said. “There’s no way we can maintain the cycles we used to have.”
With the limited resources, Crittendon said they’ve had to concentrate their efforts on hot spots including libraries and medians.
Over the weekend, the Larchmont Library’s lawn was full of overgrown grass and bushes, but on Thursday, the grass was cut and bushes were neat and trimmed.
With a new fiscal year starting July 1, Crittendon said they’ll be back to work with a full staff under a normal schedule starting July 6.
Jackson said he’s looking forward to a cleaner, neater city he can be proud of.
“I’ve always been proud to show off this city that we have, cities,” he said. “We’re blessed. This whole area is awesome, but lately how can we compete?”