‘Green’ light to retirement for parks supervisor

Cornwall Parks and Landscaping Supervisor, Jim Althouse, stands in his office at Optimist Park on Friday, May 12, 2017. Althouse is retiring after serving 39 years with the city. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – After nearly four decades with the City of Cornwall, Jim Althouse has – shall we say – a green light to retirement.

The parks and landscaping supervisor finished his final day at the departmental offices on Sunnyside Avenue, behind Optimist Park, on Friday.

“It’s difficult to describe,” Althouse chuckled, “It’s a long awaited goal and yet at the same time it seems sudden. We are always nervous about the unknown but I’m sure that it’ll be great,” Althouse recounted in a sit-down interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

Althouse started with Cornwall Transit in 1978 before moving to the Cornwall Police Service. After a brief stint there, he returned to the transit department. But an impending layoff pushed him to apply to the parks department in 1984.

“It was my field. It was along the line of what I had gone to school for and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I worked for some great bosses. John Deronde was the superintendent of horticulture at the time. He was a great fellow to work with. He took the point of view that he let you know what your position involved, handed you the reigns and said ‘Call me if you need help’. He was a very inspiring boss,” Althouse reflected.

“It’s been an interesting and enjoyable journey.”

Asked about his biggest accomplishment, Althouse said he wanted the parks and landscaping department operating at a level where he could “walk away from it and not be missed. Not entirely due to my efforts, but I feel that, at this point, that is the way it is. We have a great crew and we have a viable replacement within the section, who is acting as supervisor during my absences and will be doing so for the next couple of weeks at least.”

As far as the parks and the trees across the City of Cornwall, Althouse agrees they have come a long way during his tenure.

“When I was first in parks, the Rotary Traffic Circle was a hay field. Due to the efforts of the Rotary Club and John Deronde, it was developed over the period of a few years. Initially, it was six big empty soil beds with a few trees planted and some flowering annuals. Along the way it was enhanced repeatedly to the point where most people that I speak with find it to be a very attractive feature at the international entrance to the city,” Althouse recounted.

“That type of thing has been most satisfying. The horticulture aspect of parks is what I was initially involved in when I joined and what my interest is in joining,” he said.

When he started, Althouse said he and the superintendent were the only employees in the department with a horticultural background. Today, there are roughly a half dozen people in parks and landscaping who have a minimum certification as a horticulture technician, he said.

Althouse, originally from Blairton, Ont. (near Marmora) studied agriculture at Kemptville College and then did continuing education courses through the University of Guelph. Prior to working with the City of Cornwall, Althouse had a wide spectrum of jobs from selling farm silos, seed and veterinary drugs to life insurance sales.

He says one of the best things the city has ever done, from a parks perspective, is the recreational path.

“It’s a relatively low-cost and relatively low-maintenance item that everyone can enjoy. People are out all the time walking, cycling, rollerblading and people of all ages can enjoy it. In my opinion, it’s the best bang for the buck the city’s ever had.”

“I hope that the staff that is here and the citizens in Cornwall continue to develop the parks and landscaping within the city. I have had it noted from various travellers through the city…they find the city to be a pleasant green space. Sometimes, as residents, when we’re here and seeing something every day we fail to see actually what we do have and some times if takes someone from outside the picture to help us refocus and see what we have,” Althouse said.

As for the future, Althouse said he will be concentrating on camping and travelling with his wife, Marg, as well as “catching up on about 10 years worth of work at home.”

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