Suddenly green campus keeps grounds crew busy

Douglas Miller

It’s finally spring and Grounds Manager Heather White said her 33-person staff is ready to start tackling what she called the busiest season of the year.

“If it is green and growing we have to take care of it,” White said. “From the weeds in the sidewalk cracks all they way to our athletic facilities.”

White said the most challenging thing her staff deals with is that everything starts growing at once and continues to grow. She said the grounds department’s work is never done — it just goes in cycles.

The crew moves mountains of mulch a year, White said. Last year the grounds crew used 600 cubic feet of mulch which is made at the Campus Environment and Operations facility from campus debris and down timber.

“Every piece of wood we take off campus goes right back in the next year,” White said.

White said she ordered 7,500 annual flowers in January to be planted this April. She said that is significantly less then past years because she is trying to use more perennials this year.

“The perennials are more hearty plants,” White said. “They hold up better in unpredictable weather.”

The grounds crew is concentrating on getting the campus ready for this year’s May 4 celebration and commencement at the end of the month, White said. Then it will pick back up when it is time for freshman move-in.

White said the winter did not do much damage to the campus. She said they are basically repairing a lot of lawns and mulching beds.

“The tractors and the salt do a number on the grass next to sidewalks,” White said. “It’s just too hard for our plow guys to see where the sidewalk ends and where the grass starts.”

White said her staff does a lot of lawn maintenance. They have seven mowers, two very large Jacobson mowers with three cutting decks and five zero radius mowers for cutting around building and trees. She said they mow the entire campus once a week.

Contact building and grounds reporter Douglas Miller at [email protected].