Decades of Service

Retiring parks supervisor leaves a legacy

By Jessica Laskey
July 2022

When you enjoy the shade of hundreds of native oak trees in 13 parks maintained by the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, thank Jerry Eppler.

When you meander down the quarter-mile path to the Jensen Botanical Garden at Sutter-Jensen Community Park, thank Jerry Eppler.

When you hit a home run at one of the six baseball diamonds at La Sierra Community Center, thank Jerry Eppler. (And maybe the pitcher.)

For 34 years, Eppler served as parks supervisor for the Carmichael parks district. During his tenure, he oversaw nearly 200 acres, planted more than 1,000 trees, and helped modernize and redevelop many recreational sites.

“This is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Eppler says. He grew up in Carmichael down the block from park district headquarters and started his career as a “tree guy” in the almond orchards.

Jobs in landscape construction followed until he was poached from a side hustle doing sod work at La Sierra High School (his alma mater) for grounds maintenance at Carmichael Park.

His first task was to transition more than 300 ash trees that had been over-planted in the 1950s to a more diverse array of greenery, including native oak varietals better suited to the Sacramento climate.

Eppler’s next big project was modernizing the irrigation systems throughout the district—a huge undertaking and one that the community benefits from today.

Starting in 1989, Eppler worked with Carmichael Water District to change out 500 water valves throughout the parks, which required digging up existing systems by hand, rebuilding them, installing new manifolds and irrigation wires, and connecting the wires to controllers run by computer.

The improvements meant park staff could control irrigation across the district from one central location. It allowed them to make adjustments based on weather conditions, potentially saving the district thousands of dollars and gallons of water. “We started the efficiency game back in the ’90s,” Eppler says.

These irrigation fixes allowed the park district to develop six new baseball fields at La Sierra Community Center in the 1990s. A couple of decades later, Eppler oversaw the redevelopment of Sutter-Jensen Community Park, transforming 19 acres of an overgrown and neglected olive orchard into a community gathering spot, which included creation of a concrete walking path that connects to the Jensen Botanical Garden.

Eppler also had a hand in developing newer parks, including Patriots, Jan and O’Donnell Heritage parks.
Though he’s proud of his decades of service, Eppler insists he wasn’t alone.

“I had a small crew. I couldn’t do this by myself,” says Eppler, who recently relocated to a house in Roseville where he cares for a giant oak tree. “Over the years, I developed relationships with the neighbors and they would call me directly if they saw something that needed attention. That really helped me do a better job. When you take care of close to 200 acres, you can’t see it all.”

Eppler retired this spring but stays busy. Since he’s known as the guy who can fix anything, friends across the state call him to help with odd jobs. Eppler’s happy to pitch in since it helps keep his skills up. “You’ve got to practice occasionally,” he says.

When he’s not helping neighbors or looking after various vacation and rental properties, Eppler leads off-road expeditions to Death Valley, where he’s trekked more than 100 times. “It’s pretty rugged stuff,” he says. “You’re miles away from any help, so when things break, you’ve got to figure it out.”

Sounds like a job for Jerry Eppler.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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