Outdoor Services Crew

Friday, September 25, 2015

Outdoor Spaces on campus

Chinook winds and arid climate were the original University of Colorado campus caretakers.  When Old Main opened its doors in 1867 to the first university occupants, the landscape was nothing but dirt and wild grasses.  It took years and a great deal of work to transform dust covered fields into the professionally maintained campus it is today. 
Farrand Field with the Flatirons in the background.

Farrand Field, the Norlin Quadrangle and Sewall field were some of the areas set aside as open spaces on campus. As new university buildings were built, grass was added around them.  At first the fields were simply watered, seeded and mowed.
Gradually more effort was made to do more than basic lawn care.  Today's turf team is made up of experts. They have years of experience and knowledge about soil.  They use turf treatments that produce the best results.  But they don't do it alone.  They work alongside other grounds teams so that visitors and potential students experience an inviting first impression of the campus. 
Challenges maintaining the landscape come from many directions.  30,000 pairs of feet walk across campus every day.  They don't always follow designated sidewalks. When they take a short cut across the grass, dirt trails develop.  Plans to hardscape or redirect traffic are constantly under review to address these trambled or marred turf areas.

This is a dirt path created from constant shortcutting.

When construction crews drive trucks and other vehicles to various locations on campus, their wheels often slip off the edge of sidewalks.  The heavy truck wheels then churn up the grass and create muddy areas.  The turf crew is called in to handle many of these repairs.
Repair to turf is a constant task.

Zac Cameron is the supervisor in charge of overseeing turf maintenance on campus for Facilities Management.  He evaluates and schedules work for the main campus areas that are assigned to Outdoor Services.  Fertilizing, mowing, and repair work are his team's main tasks throughout the summer but as soon as cold weather hits, the team turns to winter tasks.  (Look for more on this in future blogs)  The number of outdoor activities and field locations play a big part in determining levels of maintenance. The recreation fields receive extra attention because of the heavy daily use they experience.

Full time employee, Rogelio Arellano, mows Farrand Field three times a week in summer months.
According to Zac, the turf team has in place an aggressive turf program. In addition to fertilizing and mowing, they seed, aerate and work with campus projects to ensure turf replacement is done properly. The team really hits it hard during the summer months to get major tasks completed when there are fewer students on campus.

The dirt trail caused by foot traffic cutting across Benson Field recently received a new sidewalk and new sod.
Groups hold all types of gatherings on outdoor fields throughout the campus every day.  Those that want to use the outdoor spaces must adhere to campus policies so that the space they use is in good shape for the next group.  The turf team plans field work around these events.  Timing is critical to avoid tasks that would interfere with these events.  
Every event on campus is reviewed by a Safety Committee.  Student organizers, paired with a university event planner, must submit an event request to the committee for approval.  The committee reviews all requests and approves only when they feel the event has taken all appropriate safety measures.

Zac attends committee meetings to make sure the event planners adhere to campus rules for any event using outdoor venues.  When an event calls for tent set up, he encourages the use of water barrels and/or weights to avoid staking.  Driving large tent stakes into the ground can create many problems.  Although underground utilities can be located upon request, many irrigation lines can not be traced or marked.  Fortunately, many events can get by with small tents anchored with water jogs or weights.  If a larger tent requires staking, the event coordinator must call to locate utilities and water lines.  Cleanup is also the responsibility of the event with the expectation that the area will be returned to its pre-event condition.
Water jugs are used to anchor small tents to avoid using stakes that would penetrate the ground and potentially damage campus utilities or irrigation lines.
Outdoor Services has a variety of equipment to handle campus grounds tasks. Drivers are trained before using these vehicles.  If any driver uses a vehicle on a sidewalk, they must pass an online training course which goes over safety rules for them to follow.  There is a full time mechanic, Tom Calvo, to maintain all grounds vehicles. (Coming soon will be a blog describing what it takes for Outdoor Services to move from its summer equipment into winter equipment preparations.)
Full time employee, Scott Webb, has areas he regularly mows.

Student employee, Cody Hill, uses a 36 inch walk behind mower to reach areas the larger mowers can't access.
As the grounds crews work through their tasks each day, they want the areas to be enjoyed by students and visitors.  Recently, a letter to the Chancellor provided a much appreciated outsiders view of their work.

Ginni Mulder, a senior at CU studying Evolutionary and Ecology Biology wrote:
"I would leave my house overwhelmed thinking about how much studying I had to get done and would go through my mental to-do list for the week. Immediately, as I got to campus, my mood would be lifted as I took in the beautiful scenery of the University. I was in awe of the beautiful flowers in bloom and would breathe in the scent of freshly cut grass and immediately feel at peace. Every morning, my breath was taken away by the variety of colors and diversity of plants on campus--it was truly a treat to experience this summer!"

It took 300 million years to form the Flatirons which provide a backdrop to the Colorado University Boulder campus. Fortunately, it didn't take that long to transform the once wind swept University campus, just a lot of hard work.

--Marsha Burch

Friday, August 7, 2015

Adding Color to the Boulder campus

Spring is a time for warm breezes and sunny skies but that's not what happened in Boulder this year.  Instead, we received 8 inches of snow in April and 4 inches of snow in May.  Hardly anyone thought spring had arrived during those months--plants included.  In fact, it was the wettest May in Boulder County since 1995 according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric  Administration   (NOAA).
Two months of snow and rain made the soil extremely wet and spring planting preparation a little tricky on the CU campus.  It is not easy to till through clumps of mud.  In order to get the flowers planted by mid-June though, the work had to continue -- rain or shine.

The crews knew the cool weather and rain would soon be replaced by hot summer sun.   So, one very important step before any flowers went in the ground at the University was checking with the Outdoor Services Irrigation Team to make sure the flower beds would have water.

If flowers are planted in an area before the irrigation team can get water there, the teams would need to hand water until the automated irrigation was ready. The Outdoor Services crews know the importance of good communication across teams.   So much of their work depends on timing.

Two teams maintain CU's main campus and are responsible for grounds and landscape maintenance.  The dividing line runs roughly along 18th street.  Scott Redder, Supervisor, has leads for both areas. 
West Main Campus flower order: from left, Riley Eichler (student), Doug Grainero, Jessie Taylor, John Vogel(student)
West Main Campus Lead, Jessie Taylor (GN2), has worked at CU in Outdoor Services for nineteen years.  Her full time crew is:  Doug Grainero, Don Anderson, George Wallack and Matt Schwarz.

            Jessie Taylor inspecting the flower bed at 17th and University       
There are student employees that work side by side the full time Outdoor Services crews.   Some work all year round but the biggest numbers arrive in the summer.   

“We couldn’t do this without them,” Jessie said.  “The campus looks better than ever and it is because we have student workers to help us.   We are like a work family," she added. 

CU isn’t an agriculture university but many students find working outdoors rewarding and the flexible hours offer them a perfect work schedule during the school year.

George Wallack working on Hawthorne Courtyard bed
When asked what Jessie would like people to know about her team she replied that, “they really care about the campus.   They have personal pride in what they do and they like their job.   They like working for CU.”   

East Main Campus Lead, Bertie Knowles (GN2), has worked at CU in Outdoor Services for fourteen years.  His full time crew is:  Adrien Francis, Justin Potter, Patrick Giblin and Adam Sitzman.

East Main Campus flower order:  from left, Bertie Knowles, Adam Sitzman and Patrick Giblin

"Our team has a lot of knowledge," said Bertie.  "What has been fun is seeing the students learn from the team."  Whether it is trash left on sidewalks, weeds popping out among the flowers or trees that look a little stressed, Bertie is looking for it all during his daily inspections.

With all the variety that is available, I asked the leads how they picked what the teams planted.  Each full time employee owns his or her planting sections and decides what will look good.  They are responsible for preparing, planting, and maintaining their flower beds.   Their goal is to make the campus burst with color.

The campus landscape architect, Richelle Reilly, has been called in to provide guidance.   "Richelle has reviewed aspects such as texture, color and scale with my teams," explained Scott Redder.   "The crews take these things into consideration when choosing the right plant material but they also have to consider environmental aspects such as wind and sun exposure to a site," said Scott.  

This burst of color is a result of Adrien Francis's hard work SE of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

Justin Potter tends the University Administrative Annex Flower Beds
To help with the overall budget each year, the teams are looking more and more into planting perennials.  They want those that still give color but will come back year after year.  If you look around campus, you'll see these plants are really taking hold and filling in the landscape beautifully.

The crews work hard to make little areas around  campus shine with something new and exciting.  Outdoor Services teams hope the next time you are walking on campus, something will catch your eye and make you stand a few minutes and smile. 

Marsha Burch



Thursday, July 30, 2015

EAB (Emerald Ash Borer) on campus

Many state and federal agencies began studying the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) problem in 2002 when it was confirmed the beetle had arrived in the United States.

How did this beetle arrive in the United States? It has been speculated that the EAB entered on wood packing material on either cargo ships or airplanes that originated in Asia. Over the last ten years, millions of ash trees have died and have been removed in many states across the country as a result of this infestation. 

When it was confirmed the beetle had been detected in Colorado in 2013, arborists at the University of Colorado knew it was just a matter of time before they would discover it on the Boulder campus.... and they did.  Facilities Management Outdoor Services and Housing Facilities Services began steps to save as many of the campus ash trees as possible.

Treatment being done on an ash beside Old Main, critical to CU landscape
About 720 ash trees are actively maintained on the Boulder campus. This year, Outdoor Services, Housing and Dining Services and Parking Services identified approximately 107 ash trees as key elements in landscape designs on campus.  The Main Campus ash trees were the first to receive EAB treatment.  State licensed professionals injected an insecticide directly into the ash tree trunks. Supervising this work, at all times, was a staff member from CU.   Arborist, Vince Aquino, was on hand June 24, 2015, as work began.

The initial step in the treatment process was to identify the first set of ash trees and to set yellow application notice flags at their base.  The flags stayed in place for a week as a means to inform those on campus of the work being done.

Yellow application notices remained for a week at the base of treated trees.
Depending on the diameter of the ash tree trunk, 3 to 4 holes (more if needed) were drilled into the base of each trunk.  Small plugs were then inserted into the holes.  An insecticide was loaded into an insecticide applicator and injected directly into the trunk.   This method greatly minimized exposure to non-targeted animals and/or plants and is very effective in treating the targeted pests--in this case, EAB.

Two insecticides were used in this first round of treatments.  Most trees were protected with Emamectin Benzoate, and a much smaller number of trees received Azadirachtin.  Neither chemical belongs to the Neonicotinoid class.  Campus arborists will monitor the results of these treatments in the coming year.  It is expected that the Emamectin Benzoate treated trees will defend ash trees against EAB infestation for at least two years.

Several holes around the base were drilled into the ash tree.

Plugs were set into the holes.
Diameter of the trunk determined the amount of holes needed.

Tim Kockler, licensed commercial applicator from Davey Tree Expert Company, prepared the applicator.

The insecticide was injected into the trunk of the ash trees

The locations of the first treated ash trees on campus were mapped.  Additional ash trees will be identified and potentially receive treatments next spring.

The University of Colorado is cooperating with numerous state, municipal and federal agencies as part of a Colorado EAB Response Team.  This team is working to improve and to coordinate the  responses to the EAB outbreak all across Colorado.  It is also involved in communicating with the public on management of EAB on private property.

The communities surrounding the University of Colorado have many questions.  People with ash trees in their landscape want to know what to do.  Two great sites for this information are https://bouldercolorado.gov/pages/emerald-ash-borer and https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/emerald-ash-borer.  The sites help explain symptoms, detection methods and the quarantine guidelines effective since November 12, 2013 for Boulder County and small portions of Jefferson and Weld counties.

Marsha Burch

Friday, May 1, 2015

It happened this week - Mulching

Many mulch mounds of mulch, if many mulch mounds of mulch how much mulch does CU mulch?  Say that ten times fast. 

The Boulder CU campus uses Western Red Cedar mulch around flower beds and trees.  Deliveries arrived this week and the mulching began all over campus.  Of course, I had to ask, how much mulch will CU mulch and why Western Red Cedar?

Putting down mulch is nothing new to those of us with landscaped yards.  We’ve been told that mulch helps conserve moisture, reduces weed growth and overall just makes the flower beds and trees look great.  But there is another side of mulching with red cedar.  It doesn't decompose as quickly as other mulch.  So what CU puts down will last longer.

Bertie Knowles and Adrian Francis deliver mulch

So how much mulch does CU mulch?  A quick estimate is around 330 yards.  Scott Redder, Outdoor Services Main Campus Supervisor, helped me look at it another way.  It would take 18 tandem dump trucks lined up end-to-end to deliver that much mulch.  Fortunately, Scott spreads his deliveries out over the year with the bulk of it arriving in Spring.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let the water flow!

A few weeks ago, the water on campus began to flow again.  Campus plants were screaming for water.  Some patience and many man hours were needed to make sure everything was ready.  After the irrigation team checked their communication equipment and pump houses, they moved on to the finer details of the system.  They had to be sure the miles of piping hidden below ground were ready to carry gallons and gallons of water. 

Until the water flows, areas such as you see in the pictures below, stay dry. 

 Remember the water hammer we were worried about a few weeks ago? Well, it is a real thing that could happen if care isn't taken in starting up the flow of water on campus. A four-man team splits up with one person standing in the pump station and the others stationed at the highest spot where quick cuplers have been placed. In manual mode, the water is slowly allowed to enter the line.

Air pockets built up over the winter are released.  If too much pressure is allowed in the line too fast...     BAM   water hammer will burst a line. The break could happen anywhere along the water line and hard to find. So this step is extremely important.

Success.... the campus turf, plants and trees now have water!

Work for the irrigation team doesn't stop.  They constantly monitor the use of water (not too much...not too little) and any problems that occur.  As new buildings come on line for the University, the irrigation team is called in to discuss irrigation needs for the new landscaping.  Now you know.  On campus, when you see water, think irrigation team!  They make it happen!

Stay tuned for:  Burst of Color!