Turf Management Specialist

a headshot of michael with uniform ballcap
Michael Stachowicz, Turf Manager at National Mall and Memorial Parks

NPS Photo

Michael Stachowicz is the Turf Management Specialist at National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA). Michael managed the 2010-2016 rebuilding of the Turf on the National Mall, the largest turf rehabilitation project ever undertaken by the National Park Service (NPS). He is the only full time Turf Management Specialist in the National Park Service, though many different career fields contribute to the Tuf Management across the NPS.

We interviwed Michael to learn a little bit about his time in the NPS. Here's what he said:

How did you get interested in what you do?

It was a combination of growing up on a dairy farm, having golf as a hobby, and having an interest in landscape architecture (the much younger version of me was going to design golf courses). After getting my Plant and Soil Science Degree, golf was an obvious industry for me to end up with. Golf is the boot camp of turf…you learn so much about the plant and what it can do. Turf is so important to golf, but once I was in the NPS, I realized how important turf is to all landscapes, parks, events, and recreation. It is funny how turf ended up being the way for me to be involved with inaugurations, concerts, recreation, and the community.

What type of education did you have that prepared you for your job?

I received a Bachelor of Science in Plant and Soil Science, University of Massachusetts. Internships were the key for me to advance and learn as well. On-the-job experience is needed to understand the academics while it also grows ones network. While in golf I worked on historical restorations, built new golf courses, and managed facility management operations, all of which gave me skills needed for turf projects in the NPS.

How did you get your start in the NPS?

After 25 years of working in golf, I wanted to move to something more community oriented. How people use the landscape is something that interested me as well as being a steward for these community assets. The renovation of the National Mall was that opportunity for me to move from golf to parks. This project proved how diverse a skill set a turf manager needs- including construction, agronomy, contracting, project management, partner/public relations, fleet management, and event management.

How did you make it to where you are today?

I always showed up to work not only to do what was asked of me, but looking for ways to help out even more. I started volunteering for work groups or help others with their projects and just going beyond my regular duties. I have a hard time saying no to anyone or group that wants help and this has led me to meet people and work on projects I would never have imagined. It was through these extracurricular activities I developed a network and became seen as a resource for others in the NPS.

Any particular achievements or awards you would like to highlight?

The Mall [turf rehabilitation] project received multiple awards. Prior to my work with the NPS, the golf course we built made many "best of" lists when it opened. But what I consider achievements the most are the parks, communities, and universities I get to visit and teach at. The fact I am recognized in this regard is the most important achievement to me.

What about high and low points along the way?

I would say that it requires a lot of hard work to get into a management position. It could be years of long hours doing physical labor to work your way up, and that can take a toll on work life balance. But I really liked the work and focusing on career goals helped me through all that. High points are just the realization of goals for me like tending to iconic landscapes either through regular care or a total reconstruction.

What about high and low points along the way?

That is the cool thing, turf and landscape experience factors into so many aspects of this park. When events come to the Mall large and small, I am involved in the planning and permitting. This includes concerts, festivals, the annual July 4th celebration, and Inaugurations. There is also an interpretive element to my job from giving tours of the Mall to working on the cherry blossom prediction, and interfacing with the media on both. I also get to be involved with memorial renovations or new memorials because of my soil and plant experience. I think that the incorporation of interpretation, construction, and special use permits as components of my job have allowed me to feel like I am a part of the greater management team of the park.

Last updated: December 21, 2017