Grounds crew makes improvements to campus

Jinae West

The grounds crew kept busy over the summer, making both hardscape and landscape improvements as well as environmental enhancements, amounting to a budget of $300,000 to brighten campus and keep maintenance to efficient levels, according to the Office of the University Architect’s Current Projects Web site.

Heather White, grounds manager, said most of the changes involved relocating plants to new locations and adding concrete curbs to sidewalks to channel rain flow. She said planting small shrubs and trees would begin at the end of October, “maybe early November at best.”

But the grounds crew did add perennials, daylilies and hostas – small plants that can survive harsh weather – near places like newly constructed Oscar Ritchie Hall.

“We do a lot of our construction in the summer. You can still see some of the effects of our restoration projects, so a lot more of what we’re doing to improve the landscape is to install additional landscape,” White said.

Construction at the Music and Speech Center during the summer forced the grounds crew to remove several plants, White said, but “it sometimes comes at the right time.”

“It costs a lot less if you pick up a shrub and move it than to buy a new one,” she said.

White pointed out Lowry Hall and its high-maintenance garden beds on either side of the entryway, which she said makes the front of the building appear more park-like. She said the grounds crew used plants they already had to create a new look that’s also easier to maintain.

“We save a lot of time and money because we don’t buy new materials,” White said.

“We’re scavengers,” she added. “We don’t have a bottomless budget, so we use what we can.”

One of the biggest projects the department continues to work on is the grassy area behind Van Campen Hall. White said two full gardens used to occupy this space, which will now to be turned into a lawn. Workers transplanted vegetation from the back to the front of Van Campen Hall, but she said students probably haven’t noticed the changes.

But a project students most likely see every day, whether they know it, is a rolled curb edge along sidewalks between Johnson and Lake halls, the Student and M.A.C. Centers on the esplanade and on the backside of Cartwright Hall facing Van Deusen Hall.

“We worked with the grounds department to find a better way to divert rain water from the edges of the sidewalk back to the sidewalk to stop erosion,” said construction manager Todd Shaffer. “We’re addressing the worst areas first.”

White said she doesn’t think students pay attention to the work the grounds crew does around campus, but it’s not always considered a bad thing.

“They may walk by and say, ‘Oh, I think something’s different, but I don’t know what it is,'” she said. “But if we do our jobs, it’s really rather seamless.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].