The Lost Episodes of Parks and Recreation
(That We Would Like to See…)

By Eric F. Hornig

Editor's Note: Looking for the end of the story? Here is Episode Three…

Episode Three: The Grand Opening

Reluctantly, you accept the assignment from the deputy director hoping that others will do most of the work and you will step in for the glory. There may even be a way to make some extra money along the way.

A quick intervention from the city attorney informs you that you are not allowed to line up your friends and offer contracts to the highest bidder, so you are forced to take whatever bids come in from the street. The low bidder is a little sketchy and has very little swag, but there is no proof of any wrongdoing (that anyone will admit), and they are well under the project budget. So you move forward with lowest qualified bidder.

As you begin passing out the swag enhanced construction hardhats to the team, you are hit with a mountain of unnecessary submittals and substitutions. The council cut the landscape architect's fee out of the construction phase, so you are on your own to decipher them. There are a lot of big words in these documents that will not improve your game, so you just stamp them and move on. You can always blame the designer if anything goes wrong later. The first month of construction passes with one and a half days of actual work due to rain. On the bright side, you made $250 in bedazzled umbrellas and urban classy boot sales.

The second month of construction passes with three days of actual work. Just as you got started, the union called for a strike against your bench installation contractor, stating that he was not in the union. As it turns out, there are two unions for this trade and he was just in the wrong one. After delivering donuts and coffee to the group for weeks, they finally give up their fight for a larger protest one town over.

You stand admiring the lime-green construction equipment you had custom-ordered for the project when an explosion knocks you to the ground. Your contractor had begun excavation for the prize pig pit when a stray cigarette came into contact with an old leaking gas tank. No one was hurt, but your shoes are wrecked and within minutes, the Super Safe Site Construction Commission and the Environmental Defense Advocates Department arrive with cameras, security and more paperwork. This will most certainly delay the project and prevent you from clubbing for weeks.

With the project on hold, there is time to sort out the paperwork. As it turns out, the custom construction equipment, the subwoofers hidden in rock speakers, colored concrete dance floor, explosion costs, donuts and coffee, delay charges from the contractor, "value added" suggestions from the contractor, and the various substitutions that you authorized without reviewing have brought the project nearly 50 percent over budget. You are able to make $2,357 from lemonade spritzer sales and bathroom use licenses for the contractors, but the remainder has to come out of project elements. You decide the soccer field is close enough to flat for now, the old shelter could work with just a coat of paint, and the plants have always been optional. With those cuts along with omitting the statue of yourself, you are back on track and the project runs smoothly from here on out.

At the grand opening, a smile draws on your face as the irony hits you of the honor student representatives running toward the bright red ribbon with oversized scissors to make the project official. Politicians, who had no involvement in the project, flock to shake hands and have their picture taken for the press. They speak to the crowd, being careful to note that the mail will still arrive on Tuesday, and represent their various parties and campaign aspirations. They make no mention of anyone with actual involvement in the project.

This time last year, you would have been right there with them trying to soak up every moment of spotlight possible. While the children are playing soccer in mud puddles (because the field is actually flat), there is no relief from the heat without the trees, and the Zebra Crested Pixie Bank Swallows are swarming the picnic guests for being too close to their nests, you can't help but feel a sense of pride. "Excuse me sir, where will the next park be, I want one near my house?" says a muffled lady's voice. As you turn to let her know that this will never happen again, as long as you live, you are greeted by your deputy director with an open-armed hug for a job well done.

Eric Hornig is a principal and landscape architect with Hitchcock Design Group's Recreation Studio. Hitchcock Design Group is a landscape architecture and planning firm with offices in Chicago and Naperville, Ill.

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