NORMAN — Norman Parks and Recreation Crew Chief Jerry Keeler has been working for the city since 1971. He oversees one of two crews that maintain over 50 city parks and other properties including mowing and other maintenance.
For Keeler, a job at the city meant more stability and better benefits for himself and his family.
“I was working at a filling station on Lindsey,” he said. “I was fixing to get married and the city offered insurance and benefits. It was a step up. A steady job and benefits meant a lot back then.”
Keeler was hired on to Parks and Rec and he’s still there.
“At that time, it also included road and channel division and forestry,” he said.
Mowing drainage and maintaining the roadside was a big part of the job in those days. The departments were split up in the 1980s Keeler said, and for a time, he went with roads.
“In ‘97 I came back over to parks,” he said. “At the most, we had 10 or 12 parks back then.”
Those were mostly the main parks — Reaves, Andrews, Griffin and Lions.
“Brookhaven addition was out there but there was no park,” Keeler said.
Growth in the park system closely followed growth in the city and neighborhood parks began cropping up as developers dedicated land as part of the city’s green space requirements.
Another memorable marker for Keeler was the Kid Space at Reaves Park.
“We had a lot of volunteers come out and help, and we had a lot of tools and equipment donated to get that done,” he said.
Norman parks have evolved with the times. In addition to neighborhood parks, the city now has three or four frisbee golf courses, and two splash pads have replaced the wading pools of previous decades. In 1971 the fire station at Lions Park became the Firehouse Art Center.