Aug 31 , 2021

Meet The Waterfront Park Team: Keefe O’Brien

Keefe O’Brien
Park Supervisor at Waterfront Park

In addition to Park Supervisor, Keefe is an Apprentice to Waterfront Park’s Irrigation Specialist. Keefe has been with the park for 4 years but has been part of the waterfront family for decades. Keefe’s father was Ed O’Brien who was one of our very first park employees. Keefe spent many days of his childhood accompanying his father on the weekends and served as his apprentice helping out with landscaping and custodial work. After Ed passed, Keefe joined the seasonal work force, the Clean Team for several summers. Keefe then worked in construction and later commercial landscaping before being recruited to become a full-time park supervisor. Keefe is engaged to be married to his sweetheart Kristen and he is excited to be a stepfather to Kristen’s beloved daughter Lola. They look forward to making many memories in Waterfront Park as a family. 

Q: What is your favorite feature of the park?

A: I really like the Orange Upland Meadow, which is the hillside behind the original children’s play area, behind the climbing rock.  This hillside is the perfect place to watch the sunset.  It’s quiet, peaceful and offers a beautiful view.  That is something great about this park.  There are areas that are loud and areas that aren’t.  Another great area which isn’t heavily used and is so peaceful and pretty is the picnic area right on the river near the Boat House.   

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: I would say that what I love most is that my job is different every day.   Some days I’m helping Paul, some days I’m helping other people.  There is never the same routine so it’s always interesting – never boring.  I really enjoy my apprenticeship with Paul.  There is so much to learn, it’s much more than learning about the plumbing.  There are several hundred miles of pipes throughout the park, and different types of pipes.  There are electrical components to various controls for the irrigation system throughout the park.  There is a pump house with controls for the water feature which is complex.  There is so much to maintain and on any given day there are new issues that must be diagnosed and resolved.  No matter what the issue is that we come across we have to know how to fix it and determine the best way to resolve which will be the most beneficial for the park and be the easiest impact on the park.  What’s really satisfying for me is digging a hole in the park to find a leak, then cutting the pipes, reassembling the parts or replacing them, filling the hole, restoring the space and then turning on the irrigation and seeing it work.  That’s fun. 

I also help out with all other forms of park maintenance.  I help wherever needed, from mowing, weed eating, daily trash pickup.  We power wash sidewalks and blow down the parking lots.  I help clean up park floods.  My favorite role in flood cleanup is working the nozzle on the firehose.  I love doing that more than any other role in flood cleanup.  I plow snow.  We take on winter projects involving construction and painting, running new irrigation.  There is never a dull moment in the park.  It’s always something new and different.   

It’s great knowing that I am maintaining the water that keeps the flowers and trees healthy and the grass green.  I enjoy looking around the park and am proud of the role I play in keeping this place beautiful.  

Q: What is your favorite way to spend a day in the park with your family and friends?

A:  I’m part of a group which meets regularly in the park.  We started this during COVID because the park offered a safe place to come together and see one another in person.   It was safer than meeting indoors and gave us the opportunity to be together.  I’m thankful for this opportunity to be in a beautiful setting with a connection to others and still feel safe from the pandemic.   

Q: In your time with Waterfront Park, how have you seen the park grow?

A: There used to be a very large berm in the children’s playground near the water play.   We dug that up and changed the space to create another picnic area for families to have gatherings.  The water play bucket is new and in fact that was my first experience working with water infrastructure in the park.  We installed a new water service to that area.  It was my first time working in concrete also.  We poured the slabs for the picnic area ourselves and we painted the pavilion with the fans ourselves.  I’ve been part of the early work on the park expansion.  I helped clean it up from what it was.  We installed the swings and did landscaping work over there.  The other day I was there maintaining the space and noticed a train crossing the bridge, and after the train passed, there was a tow that passed under that same bridge.  It’s an interesting system that I’ve not seen other places, the way that the railroad bridge raises and lowers, and it will be so neat for more people to use that space and see that regularly.     

Q: What is one thing you want people to know about Waterfront Park?

A: It’s a great place to bring your kids so that they can form memories with their parents or loved ones.   My memories of time spent with my father here at the park will never be forgotten, I’ll always have them.   There are so many things you can do here with children: ride bicycles, play on playgrounds, play in the splash park, attend an event, eat an ice cream cone from a robot… If you bring them, they will never forget the special times that they have here with you.