James Madison University

James Madison University recognizes that the landscape is a vital component of the campus. With this understanding and a commitment to preserve the beauty and quality of the existing landscape, the university created the Campus Maintenance and Management Plan. The plan strives to incorporate the requirements of the university's ever-growing population and enhance the scenic beauty while minimizing the essential maintenance costs and service needs of the functioning institution.

History of the university With the Blue Ridge Mountains on the eastern horizon and the Allegheny Ridge on the western horizon, the 472-acre campus of James Madison University blends the spirit of a collegiate atmosphere with the natural beauty and resources of the area.

In its 89-year history, James Madison University (JMU) has grown from a state school for women to today's coeducational comprehensive university with a fall 1995 enrollment of 11,927. The Virginia General Assembly established the university in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. The university was named Madison College in 1938, in honor of the fourth president of the United States. In 1977, the name was changed to James Madison University.

JMU is a mid-size state-assisted university that has experienced dramatic growth in academic prestige and popularity over the past 20 years. Several national publications have cited JMU as one of the best undergraduate universities in the country. The appearance of JMU's landscapes and facilities also reflects this excellence. In 1994, the Association of Physical Plant Administrators presented the JMU Facilities Management Department the award for excellence in facilities management.

Comprehensive guidelines To maintain the university's high standards of grounds maintenance, JMU developed the Campus Maintenance and Management Plan, which "establishes the guidelines for conserving and enhancing the existing character of the campus while--at the same time--simplifying maintenance requirements."

A lot of time and work went into developing the landscape-management plan, and Roy Cardin, grounds supervisor, believes it is a good concept. "This plan has been reviewed extensively, and it has a lot of input from our staff along with the architects. A lot of work went into the program," says Cardin.

Following the established guidelines will help to maintain the quality of the campus for the future. "Our plan was implemented 2 years ago, so we are still in the early stages of it," says Cardin. "We are following a lot of the plan, but it is a guideline. It is not a bible. We stick to it as tight as we can."

The plan addresses the campus's seven precincts: core, roadway, academic, residential, athletic, parking and greenway. Each precinct has its own specific guidelines for trees, shrubs, turf management and flower beds. The guidelines set forth the design aspects of the grounds and enable the crew to concentrate its efforts on the maintenance of the grounds.

* Trees. Canopies of trees line roads and sidewalks around the campus. Red/scarlet oak, white ash, white oak and beech are the dominant species on the campus. Each precinct has a canopy-tree and a continual ornamental-tree planting schedule with both 5-year and long-term goals. For example, the residential precinct has a continual-canopy 5-year replenishment goal of 25 trees per year and a long-term goal of 10 trees per year.

Tree standards also include a fertilization and pruning schedule. The campus has many small flowering trees that require special attention in areas difficult to access due to the schedules of the facilities. Trees that are not included on the preferred species lists and have no special significance are taken off the maintenance cycle and removed when appropriate.

* Turf management. The campus's more than 300 acres of turf receive constant, monitored attention. Crews maintain lawns in "core" campus areas on a regular turf-management program. For example, the crew mows the lawns two to three times a week during the growing season to maintain a 2 1/2- to 3-inch summer mowing height. The campus has many difficult slopes to maintain. Therefore, the department ensures that all operators are well-trained, use good judgment and take extreme care while operating equipment in these areas.

Trimming is a part of every mowing cycle. Plus, twice a year, the grounds crew aerates, slit seeds and topdresses the turf. Three times a year it applies seasonal fertilizer formulas. As part of the turf-management program, the crew also employs integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, conducts annual soil sampling for testing and adjusts nutrients and pH accordingly. The crew re-sods worn areas of turf as needed.

* Shrubs. In most precincts, the grounds crew maintains shrubs as masses to structure and direct pedestrian traffic. When necessary, it removes and replaces shrubs and hedges that require constant maintenance--such as shearing and pest control--with more appropriate species. The species distribution of shrubs is 70 percent evergreen and 30 percent deciduous.

* Flower beds. Color presentation in the form of flowers is an established and cherished tradition at JMU. Most of the university's flower beds contain flowers of a single hue. When beds contain flowers of multiple colors, they are limited to those of similar hues. The purpose of the designated color concepts is to continue the university's color tradition "while simplifying and unifying the design, maintenance and installation process."

During the school year, the grounds department sponsors an adopt-a-bed program. Student clubs, social groups and members of fraternity and sorority clubs take responsibility for planting and caring for designated flower beds. It is a good way to introduce students to various aspects of landscaping while they contribute to the maintenance of their university.

The grounds-maintenance department has 28 full-time employees, which includes garbage disposal, grounds crew and supervisors. The maintenance department trains all maintenance personnel in recognizing and implementing control options and procedures for the campus's top 10 pest problems: spider mites/spruce mites, scale, tent caterpillars, lace bugs, grubs, aphids, bagworms, borers, leafminers and Dutch elm disease. Three members of the grounds crew, including Cardin, are state-certified IPM applicators. Several other members are in training and will be certified IPM technicians within the next year.

Planning for the future About 49 percent of the university's 12,000 students live in campus facilities, many in landscaped village-type settings. The residential precinct is composed of five distinct areas. Rather than have identical dormitories, JMU designed each unit to have its own individual characteristics. The campus strives to maintain a relaxed atmosphere as opposed to a structured institutional environment.

"We take a lot of pride in our campus," says Cardin. "We think that is one big part of coming into a new environment right out of high school. It is important for students to have a nice campus landscape that makes them feel comfortable and at home."

Seeing the end result is what Cardin enjoys most about working on the grounds of James Madison University. "Being able to see what your work reflects after you are done, and being able to walk through and say, 'This place really looks nice.' That is what we work toward, the end result."

Want to use this article? Click here for options!
© 2020 Penton Media Inc.

Interactive Products

Equipment Blue Book

Used Equipment Valuation Guide

Riding mowers, lawn tractors, snow throwers, golf carts


Grounds Maintenance Jobs

search our jobs database, upload your resume