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Taking care of the city’s turf

Marshall Park Superintendent Preston Stensrud does his thing: maintaining city parks

Photo by Karin Elton Marshall Parks Superintendent Preston Stensrud shows his City of Marshall 2019 Employee of the Year plaque in his office recently.

Marshall is his home and he is proud of his part in keeping the city beautiful and well-maintained.

“I always like it when someone mentions the parks in Marshall or how clean it is,” Parks Superintendent Preston Stensrud said. “I like giving back. I was born and raised in Marshall and I like improving it and making it better.”

Stensrud was honored Jan. 10 at a city employee recognition event. City Administrator Sharon Hanson proclaimed Stensrud as City of Marshall Employee of the Year.

“It’s always nice to be recognized,” he said. “But I’m not a person who needs that. I just like to do my thing.”

The annual award highlights an outstanding city of Marshall employee who demonstrates creativity, exemplary performance, provides exceptional contributions and models excellent service to the city’s residents.

“Superintendent Stensrud is a perfect example of someone who believes in and supports our community, Hanson said. “We know that residents and visitors rank our parks and community facilities as an important factor in adding to their quality of life. Superintendent Stensrud always strives to improve and regularly asks to do more in the interest of our community.”

Stensrud pointed out that he couldn’t do his work without the support of the city council and parks staff. There are eight full-time employees in the parks department including Stensrud and 14 seasonal employees who mow lawns, water flowers and trim trees.

Stensrud himself was a seasonal employee with the parks department in 1999 at the age of 16.

“I mowed Independence Park with the big mower for the first couple years,” he said, “and then I took care of the ballfields.”

After attending Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and graduating with a degree in sports turf management, Stensrud worked for the Boston Red Sox for the summer. He returned to Marshall just as there was a full-time park maintenance worker job opening in 2008. In 2011, after Tom Polfliet retired, Stensrud was promoted to the position of parks superintendent.

The parks department is under the aegis of Marshall Community Services.

“We work with them daily,” Stensrud said. “We do a lot of coordinating and communicating.”

“Preston never hesitates to help other staff or the public, even if that means interrupting or slowing the progress of his own responsibilities,” said Stensrud’s supervisor, Community Services Director Scott VanDerMillen. “He believes in the services we provide to residents and takes immense pride in his work.”

Stensrud also works with civic groups such as Marshall Rotary and the Kiwanis Club that make donations for upgrades to the park system. Marshall residents give back as well.

“They’ll do trees, benches, flagpoles,” he said. “Some will just give money and say, ‘do what you want.'”

The parks department also uses grant money to fund projects such as money from the Department of Natural Resources.

“We planted 119 new trees,” he said.

Stensrud has taken on several challenging and high profile projects such as the Memorial Park Veteran’s Memorial Final Phase, the transitioning of the Light Up the Night event from the Southwest Minnesota State University campus to Independence Park, the renovation of Legion Field’s infield, a refurbishment of the outdoor basketball court at Independence Park (Carter’s Court), the Schwan’s Regional Amateur Sports Complex and installation of new playground equipment at three parks within the past two years.

He also directs operations at the Aquatic Center and the Red Baron Arena & Expo, two of the largest public facilities within the city of Marshall.

That’s a lot of responsibility, but Stensrud likes the challenge.

“Getting to do different stuff makes it fun,” he said. “I always enjoy coming to work because, other than if it snows, you’re going to do snowblowing, but other than that, you do different things every day.”

Stensrud added that the trails get used for hiking and biking year-round.

He starts out his day with paperwork — paying bills — but after that he gets to work “beautifying Marshall — one day at a time,” he said.

Any complaints that he receives from residents are usually about the bathrooms at the city parks so he is working to upgrade those.

“We’ve put in new restrooms at Justice Park, Liberty Park and this year, Freedom Park,” he said. Liberty Park, a popular and well-used park, formerly had just a Port-a-Potty.

The BikeShare program in Marshall has been popular, Stensrud said. The city of Marshall offers a bike share program where you can rent, ride and return Trek bikes at no charge. Bikes can be picked up at the AmericInn, The Bike Shop, and the Marshall Area YMCA after filling out some paperwork and providing identification.

“We’re looking to expand the program,” he said. “To have more bikes and locations.”

Another recreational activity he’s working on for Marshall is an archery range.

“We’re working on the new archery range out by the MERIT Center,” said Stensrud. “So that will be something new for 2020.”

Stensrud also serves as a captain on the Marshall Fire Department.

He and his wife, Crystal, have three children: Keygan, Asher and Beckett.

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