You’ve likely seen them around campus — mowing the grass, planting flowers and shrubs or working on the sidewalks.
The grounds crew is a component of Facilities, Planning and Operations, made up of 10 people. The crew is instrumental to campus functions. They mow the grass and maintain plant life, and they also maintain sidewalks, campus parking lots and the signage around campus.
During winter, the grounds crew also prepares campus for bad conditions.
As winter passes, the grounds crew is beginning to focus on spring. Kevin Courtwright, grounds supervisor, said spring is a crucial time of the year for his crew.
“It’s like a domino effect,” Courtwright said. “If you do [early spring] right, then summer and fall all falls into place.”
Tia Bond, foreman, said the preparation for spring begins with cleaning up trash. Then, annual beds will be prepared — a process that includes tilling and mulching.
Bond said the month-long mulching process involves hand-spreading two semi-truck loads of mulch in all of the plant beds across campus to control weeds. Shrubs will then be trimmed.
Bond said the process of preparing annual beds, after mulching, takes a couple of weeks.
The 10 members of the grounds crew each have their own area of campus upon which they have creative input.
“Each person has a lot of input. If you’re not that into flower beds, there’s somebody on the crew that would love to help you or just come up with a design for you,” said Bond.
Shawn Lindley, foreman, said allowing people to have creative input into their own area increases accountability for it.
Lindley said, “It’s trying to encourage people to do their own input because then they will look after it better, as well. They can come up with some really good ideas.”
Out of the many challenges the grounds crew faces, from Mother Nature to working around schedules of the campus community, one huge challenge they face is vandalism and theft.
Bond mentioned people will walk through flower beds after new flowers have been planted, trash cans will get flipped over and art installations, like “Petra”, will be graffitied. Plants are sometimes torn up while other times they’re stolen outright.
Bond said, “We try to replace the plants if we can. If they pull them up and throw them on the lawn we try to put them back if we get to them soon enough. But there’s not much we can do aside from reporting it to Public Safety.”
Despite the challenges, the grounds crew has won multiple national awards in recent years. The crew hopes to bring home more awards this year.
Courtwright says the crew sets UCM apart from competitors with larger budgets and crews. “In sports, they talk about teams that are successful are teams that play for each other, not with each other. They’re united. These guys are.”