George Washington University

Located in the historic district of Washington, D.C., known as the Foggy Bottom, George Washington University is neighbor to many attractions including the White House, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial and many government buildings. The university fits comfortably into its surroundings, as it has since its founding. In 1996, the univeristy celebrated its 175th anniversary.

We are proud of the diversity, dedication and talents of our staff. We train each individual to perform a variety of tasks. The grounds department is comprised of 23 full-time employees: 13 crew members, three gardeners/equipment operators, two foremen, two pest-control operators, a street sweeper, a mechanic and a manager.

Maintenance procedures Horticultural duties vary throughout the season, but some tasks remain constant. Litter and debris collection are first priority at the beginning of each workday. The night-shift employees are responsible for sweeping university parking lots, sidewalks and street curbs, and emptying trash and recycling containers. The District of Columbia also requires the university to care for the cleaning of the first 18 inches off the street curb.

To give grounds-department employees a feeling of ownership, we divide the campus into zones and give each employee his or her own area of responsibility. Within a zone, each employee is responsible for all work: watering, weeding, pruning, annual plantings and trash collection. A foreman directs the completion of larger jobs-mowing, mulching and any special projects-by groups. The foremen also distribute equipment, assign special work and inspect each zone on a weekly basis. As employees become familiar with their zones, we encourage them to use their own judgment, initiative and experience in the daily and seasonal maintenance. This approach has developed increased pride in the employees, improved their self esteem and resulted in a work force that is eager to learn.

Watering the campus landscape poses a special problem. Only one quarter of the campus is irrigated by automatic systems; we hand water the remainder of the campus. Watering begins early in the morning and can continue throughout the day. The grounds staff monitors and adjusts the automated systems. Precise watering is critical as most of the buildings on campus are well over 25 years old, and excessive watering leads to water flooding into the ground floors.

Snow removal is another top priority. The blizzard of January 1996 held much of the Mid-Atlantic in its grasp, and George Washington University was no exception. Over the course of 8 days, the storm dumped 26 inches of snow on the campus. We kept all passageways clear, not only for the students to attend class but also so the hospital, the subway and parking lots remained open and safe for the general public. Any time snow or icy conditions are forecast, we consider the grounds employees essential personnel and require them to fulfill removal operations until completed.

During an average winter, we apply about 15 tons of ice melt and 3 tons of coarse sand. During the winter of 1995-'96, we applied well over 45 tons of ice melt.

For the Blizzard of '96 alone, each grounds-department crew member put in an average of 119 hours, working around the clock to keep the university campus clear. The crew maintains 5 miles of public sidewalk and 11 acres of paved area. Many areas are of specialized brick or tile and must be hand-shoveled.

Equipment and materials Our equipment consists of three 4x4 pickup trucks with plows and spreaders, four Gravely tractors with two 5-foot brushes, two Epoke hitched salt spreaders and a walk-behind Gravely mounted with a 5-foot brush. We also use a variety of hand equipment such as shovels and brooms. Our staff mechanic maintains and repairs all equipment. During the growing season, we convert the trucks and tractors for general maintenance and installation use. We use four Cushman electric utility vehicles, one Yanmar 35-hp diesel tractor with front loader, a Yanmar backhoe and York rake, two gas-powered hedge trimmers, five backpack blowers, two chain saws, a gas-powered 0.5-inch drill, 50-, 100- and 300-gallon tank sprayers, and a sod cutter and rotary tiller.

Turf management at the university requires five gas-powered mulching mowers, two cordless electric mulching mowers, a 17-hp tractor mower, a slit seeder, turf roller, two walk-behind aerators, a pull-behind aerator, two push spreaders, six spin trimmers and four edgers.

Management practices and training We must emphasize that the purpose of our institution is the pursuit of knowledge. It is for this very reason that the grounds department has designed gardens for quiet reflection and landscapes with as much open space as possible for impromptu activities and other student diversions. The university's outdoor classroom, located in the largest of the three rose gardens, is a popular setting for faculty, students and staff.

As an inner city campus, safety is a major concern. We work closely with the university police department to maintain an environment that is safe and secure for the individuals that live and work here. Wherever possible, we prune trees and shrubs to allow for a clear line of sight and to discourage those who would harm others.

An important part of our work is annual color rotation. Each year we plant 4,500 fall annuals, 25,000 bulbs and 10,000 summer annuals. The department manager selects and locates all of this material. Much of our landscape relies on our perennial beds, which include Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, Hosta, Echinacea and a variety of ornamental grasses.

The university is recognized as the official All American Rose Selection public display garden for Washington, D.C. We plant more than 900 roses of several varieties in three main areas on campus. One full-time person is dedicated to their maintenance, although several community volunteers also help out.

Training is important to the department and to the individual. Training takes place in the field as a hands-on demonstration on pruning roses, as a lecture and handout on fertilizers and their proper application, or as a video on safe equipment operation. The university's benefits program supports 100-percent tuition for all credited courses, and many of our employees participate in the university's certified landscape-design program.

Public awareness and concern over the use of pesticides demands that we educate our staff on the proper use of these materials. We closely follow the practice of integrated pest management (IPM) and encourage it throughout the landscape. We also carry out proper plant selection and cultural practices to decrease the need for pesticide sprays. When necessary, pesticides are applied either by a licensed operator or under the strict supervision of a licensed operator.

Environmental consciousness The grounds department makes every effort to be as environmentally conscious as possible. In addition to using IPM, we have replaced plastic waste bags with paper waste bags, and we have begun using cordless electric mowers. The cordless mowers work well when mowing small strips of turf throughout the campus. They also reduce noise pollution, air pollution and allow for greater mowing time with less annoyance to the general public. Because we are in a highly visible position, these changes have reflected well upon the department and the university.

Noel J. Gasparin is the grounds operations manager for George Washington University (Washington, D.C.).

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