May 3, 2016
“This job is just like meditation,” Haywood Liege says as he trims another branch off one of the magnolia trees lining East River Park, which are just days from blooming. “There’s always something to be done – the work never ends. But you get lost in it. Every day when I leave my mind feels a little bit clearer than it did when I got here.”
Mr. Liege has been a gardener at the East River Park for 8 years, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the 57-acre park and its users reflects that. He can tell you when each playground will be the busiest, which ballfield is the most popular, and when bike traffic is heaviest. Working outside in the park in every season, in all types of weather, he knows when the crocuses will appear, when the daffodils will bloom, when the magnolias will blossom, and when it’s time to start laying mulch for winter.
Mr. Liege came to the Parks Department 28 years ago with some experience in landscaping, but learned almost everything he knows about gardening on the job. “It was a very steep learning curve at the beginning,” he recalls, “but I loved it immediately. It’s great to be able to invest time and energy in something, and watch it grow every year.
“I always try to encourage young people to get into gardening, to see it as a career, because it’s so rewarding, and so important to the health of the community. And you don’t know where it can take you. I never thought I’d become a gardener, and now I’m taking care of this park and most of the plants in it. I plan on staying with the Parks department until I retire, and even after I retire I’m still going to garden. I think more people need to understand what a wonderful job this can be.”
“A lot of people are looking for jobs, and are willing to work hard, but they’re having a hard time finding a job they can support their family on. I’m really grateful to have found this, because I really love what I do and am proud of the work that we do here keeping this place nice.”