Sayer Larson is the first person to take on the role of public works parks superintendent for McFarland.
After starting Aug. 19, Larson said he has been getting to know park systems, staff and equipment to see what can be handled internally.
“Just being able to provide a great place – a great park system – for my community that I live in is pretty important for me,” he said. “Basically, we’re kind of in the business of making memories so to say and then just providing a positive and safe place for the village residents to recreate.”
McFarland parks, recreation and natural resources committee chairperson Dan Kolk said that as McFarland moves to improve recreational facilities and offerings, the village wanted to have an individual dedicated to development and planning.
The parks department formerly had just one full-time parks employee supported by employees on limited summer terms. The village has expanded park facilities, but Kolk said the operation has not always been comprehensive and the village is currently considering plans for larger parks in the future and replanning of smaller parks.
“We hope that Sayer’s background both in maintenance and planning would be helpful in getting us moving in those directions,” Kolk said.
Larson has a background in landscaping and ecological restoration of woods, prairies and savannas for the public and private sectors.
One day, he was working on a project for a savanna on a private property.
“It was a beautiful property, but as I was standing there looking around, it was like no one else gets to really enjoy this,” he said. “So that really spring-boarded me back working for public sector so that my work is being dedicated to the public so everyone can enjoy it.”
He began his career with the Department of Natural Resources after college and was a park ranger for Dane County, primarily focusing on property management of Token Creek and Babcock County Parks. He worked as a park ranger for the city of Madison for five years, patrolling the city’s 250 parks.
In addition to his position as the parks superintendent, he is a Cubmaster for the Cub Scouts, and his wife is a den leader. He also has two sons who are students in the McFarland School District. He said it is rewarding to know he is bringing his work home to his community.
Since starting his position, Larson said he has been working to keep the parks in good operating condition. He has been sitting in on meetings for planning and maintaining the facilities to ensure the parks are aesthetically pleasing while learning how community members want to use the parks.
Larson hopes to give residents more opportunities to volunteer with the park system.
“I came from a program that uses volunteers a lot, and it’s amazing what additional work that you can get done with some of these great people that are out there that are willing to donate their time and it’s within their interest,” he said.
He is currently looking at restoring Marsh Woods Park to rid the property of invasive species.
He added that not all the restoration work will be like invasive species removal, and anyone willing to volunteer is appreciated.
“I’ll be looking for volunteers to see if anyone has an interest in gardening to come on out and provide us a hand with that as well,” he said.
He hopes that in the long-term, the department can add larger amenities to the parks, such as possible community pools and splash pads, a Frisbee golf course at Orchard Hill Park and facilities for mountain biking.
While he is looking to add to parks in the future, he said he is impressed with the existing facilities.
“These are fairly new facilities. That was another thing – it kind of showed me that the village cared about their park system because they’re willing to put all this money into the facilities here,” Larson said.