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Wildwood Park welcomes new caretakers
[May 17, 2011]

Wildwood Park welcomes new caretakers


May 11, 2011 (Puyallup Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Following a two year vacancy, the yellow 1938 home with white trim that sits at the entrance of Wildwood Park finally has a new family.

Scott and Elizabeth Berdan, along with their two young sons, Jack and younger brother Dylan, have taken on the responsibilities of caring for the 80-acre lush, wooded park.

"We take a lot of pride in the work we do here," Scott Berdan said. "It's a privilege to be here. We're very fortunate to have the opportunity." On an overcast, warm Tuesday afternoon in early May, Scott Berdan was busy in the front lawn of the house laying bark among the plants. He was sprucing up the yard, bringing it back to its original appearance prior to the two year reprieve between caretakers.



And the perk of it all is that the Berdans can make their yard beautiful with all expenses paid for by the Puyallup Parks Department budget.

The Berdans began their role as caretakers on March 22, after moving into the 1,600-square-foot home on March 14. It's a move up for them from their 900-square foot home on 1.5 acres in Orting. The young couple, who just celebrated 10 years of marriage last January, sought out the caretaker position after looking for a home in the Puyallup area, where their kids could be taught in the Puyallup School District.


"We thought (the park) would be a really nice setting for the kids to grow up in," Scott Berdan said.

"I love that it's out in the woods, that it's natural and there is a lot of space for the kids," Elizabeth Berdan said. "This allows us to have family time." Scott Berdan, who is an emergency management technician for the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue Department, said he found out about the posted position in an e-mail sent internally among staff.

Caretakers for Wildwood Park are unpaid but lodging is free and the city of Puyallup pays for water, sewer, garbage and electricity. Extra things like cable TV or long-distance phone calls are covered by the caretakers, according to Interim Parks Director Tom Mark.

"(The Berdans) are doing a great job so far on the house and with getting (park) shelters ready for the rental season," Mark said. "The main advantage to having caretakers is having their presence there in the park 24 hours a day." Mark said that during the two years prior to the Berdans, the city decided not to hire caretakers for the park. What happened, he said, was the city discovered more vandalism occurred.

Since the Berdans began their responsibilities, vandalism in the park has decreased significantly, said Mark.

During one week, the Berdans caught five vandals in the act knocking out the wood shingles on the teepee-shaped picnic table structure. For years, this has been a common problem where vandals took the shingles and used them for kindling in the adjacent fire pit.

Loitering by teenage kids has also decreased.

"We are already making an impact on reducing vandalism," Scott Berdan said.

The Berdans said they will be most active patrolling the park and keeping it clean during the peak season from now through Sept. 30.

The couple makes sure to open and close the gates of the park, clean the park's three restrooms, maintain postings of when picnic shelters are reserved and also perform weekly safety checks at the park's playground, climbing wall and exercise trail station.

One major project the couple performed was assisting volunteers on April 16 during National Parks Day. During the event, the Berdans and other volunteers spread 10 cubic yards of gravel on the exercise trail. They also have five cubic yards of gravel remaining to improve park trails.

All the while the Berdans clean up the park, their young sons are right along with them.

"The kids help to trim bushes, pick up the debris and spread gravel and bark," Scott Berdan said.

"Jack is constantly pointing out pieces of garbage in the park," Elizabeth Berdan said.

Scott Berdan said he enjoys the physical part of the job.

"It's satisfying work," he said. "You can directly see the effort of the work you put in." On the days Scott Berdan is working at the fire department, his wife is busy at home patrolling the park and maintaining the cleanliness. A babysitter comes to take care of the kids while their mom is out tending to the park.

The gates need to be closed a half hour after sunset. So, each day, Elizabeth sets her alarm clock for sunset. Then, she loads the kids in the tractor.

"The kids have been really good sports," she said.

During the day, especially on weekends, the Berdans said they receive a lot of verbal feedback from park visitors.

"People knock on the door all the time," Elizabeth Berdan said. "Scott and I are real people persons." Terry Nelson, a regular visitor to the park since June 1992, keeps in contact with the Berdans during his walks through the park with his dog.

"It's helpful to know that someone is watching the park," he said. "(The Berdan's) presence is an important factor in the attitudes people have toward the park because (they) set an example in keeping it clean." The Berdans said that above all they want to make people who come to the park feel safe and enjoy a clean and peaceful setting.

"This park is a unique thing to the city," Elizabeth Berdan said. "We want it to be an enjoyable experience for them and (ensure) that they'll want to come back." Reach Puyallup Reporter Andrew Fickes at 253-841-2481 Ext. 313 or e-mail at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com.

To see more of Puyallup Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thenewstribune.com/puyallup/. Copyright (c) 2011, Puyallup Herald, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.

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