Lawrence Technological University has won an honor award for exceptional grounds maintenance in the Urban University Grounds category from the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS).
The award was accepted by Matt Maracle, the assistant director of campus facilities at LTU, who is been responsible for grounds maintenance. He has 25 years of facilities management experience including 18 years with ARAMARK, the last 15 of which have been at LTU. ARAMARK provides contracted maintenance, facilities, and food services to the University.
Grounds maintenance became a higher priority at LTU following the completion of the Quad in 2006. At about the same time Keith Kama arrived at LTU to take on the role of groundskeeper. Earlier this year Kama completed his certification as a master gardener.
Maintaining healthy lawns has been an area of significant improvement. The turf was thin in some places, and some parts of the quad didn’t get enough water. The use of salt on sidewalks during the winter months killed off grass along the edges.
The grounds maintenance staff has worked hard to minimize those problems. A slit seeder is used to de-thatch and overseed the turf with a mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass, Secretariat II Perennial Ryegrass, Creeping Red Fescue and a variety called ARC & BlackJack Kentucky.
Another solution has been to import magnesium chloride from Israel because it is gentler on the grass. That product isn’t available this winter due to heightened tensions in the Middle East, but the grounds crew mixes its own liquid brine that isn’t as damaging to the grass as some other forms of salt.
Another improvement has been the replacement of some grass or mulch areas with perennial flowers that are easier to maintain and add visual appeal. The grounds crew also has worked with Professor Donald Carpenter to create grow zones and rain gardens, and additional areas will be added in the future.
Another major initiative has been the eradication of fragmites, an invasive species of tall grass that proliferated around the retention pond west of the Architecture Building. After the phragmites were burned off several years ago, the grounds crew has sprayed earth-friendly chemicals to prevent them from returning.
Maracle has worked with the Office of Admissions to pay particular attention to the “money walk,” the route of the campus tour for prospective students.
“We realize that these students form their impression of the University within the first few minutes they are on campus, and a lot of that has to do with the appearance of the grounds,” Maracle said.
Recently the grounds crew focused on areas that were photographed for the virtual tour now posted by the Office of Admissions.
Maracle said the key to winning the award has been his crew of six plus a mechanic, who like himself are employed by ARAMARK. “The staff is dedicated to paying attention to the details, and I’m a lucky guy to be their manager,” he said.
Founded in 1911, the Professional Grounds Management Society is an individual membership society of grounds professionals dedicated to advancing the grounds management profession through education and professional development. Further information on PGMS, the Green Star Award Program and the complete list of this year’s winners are online at www.pgms.org.