LaVerne Bryant has an idea for the rusty flagpole at Tlingit Park: Paint it and rig it with a flag.

“We do all our Fourth of July stuff down here. It sure would be nice to have a flag over the proceedings,” said Bryant, the Haines Borough’s parks laborer.

Bryant last week reclaimed a sidewalk at the park where years of weeds had carpeted the concrete. When she gets signed off for using a chainsaw, she wants to take it to overgrown brush there. She’d also like to see washable walls in the restroom and improvements to a slope from Front Street that’s supposed to be a wheelchair ramp.

“This could be a great focal point for the community, I think. A lot of people use it. People who live here stop by for lunch. It’s not just people off the cruise ship,” she said.

Bryant was hired in June to spruce up parks, clean public restrooms, and keep trim areas where visitors walk. A year after the municipality was taken to task for neglecting maintenance, she’s helping turn around that image, users and supervisors say.

Mom Jenn Allen and her three-year-old daughter ducked into the Tlingit Park restroom while using the kids’ playground there last week. “It seemed very clean, or clean enough, although there were no paper towels,” Allen said.

That’s an improvement on previous years, Allen said. “I’ve walked in there before and really wasn’t impressed.” Allen knows about cleaning rest rooms: She cleans outhouses for the Division of State Parks. “It’s all about the details,” she said.

Borough public facilities director Brad Maynard said the borough got lots of complaints last year about public restrooms, but is now getting compliments.

“The big goal is to clean the bathrooms up and make people not afraid to use them. Isn’t that how McDonalds took over the restaurant business, by having clean bathrooms?”

“LaVerne puts her heart into what she she’s doing. If she had a little more time and support, she’d have the whole town looking like a million bucks. She goes way beyond the call of duty,” Maynard said.

Bryant, who grew up in Haines, said many park users are visitors, like she’s been during numerous RV trips with her family. “People can feel if they’re welcome. You know where they’re making an effort and want you there. So many people come up here and it’s the trip of their life. Why not make it comfortable for them?”

On the other side of downtown at Oslund Park, improvements to restrooms including new plumbing fixtures, walls and partitions may be bringing a change in user behavior. “People would just avoid it (but) it’s been in good shape all summer. I think kids appreciate it.” She also wants to plant new grass there and knock back brush encroaching on ball diamonds.

Bryant said she has no special ability or affinity for landscaping. She just likes working outdoors. She previously worked as a truck driver and drove a tour bus in Denali National Park. She lived in five logging camps in Southeast in the early 1980s.

She said she’s gotten a fair amount of notice, but she attributes that to wearing a long skirt, a requirement of her membership in the First Pentecostal Church. “I don’t think I do a better job or a different job (than previous parks workers). It’s just that it’s hard to miss me.” Her grass-stained, denim skirt “is just like wearing chaps,” she said.

Bryant said she enjoys her job. “It was a great summer to be out. I’ll do an inside job when I can’t do anything else.”