Safety, aesthetics, efficiency motivate groundskeeping

Grounds Maintenance at Lewis & Clark keeps the campus open and operating while modernizing the grounds during the Spring 2017 semester.

The winter of 2016-2017 created many unique challenges for the staff of the Grounds Maintenance department. The start of the storm season began in October and left Grounds Maintenance busy. From a series of downed trees across campus to the broken baseball fence, to removing snow and keeping walkways free of ice, Grounds Maintenance has worked around the clock.

“There was a lot of damage. A lot of downed trees,” Brad Ashwell, assistant director of campus grounds, said. “It has been a busy winter for us.”

Ashwell expressed the difficulty in managing the College’s grounds. His staff has been working overtime, sometimes staying overnight to tend to various hazards and problems that may arise in the night.

“We usually have a small contingent of employees that will stay the night,” Ashwell said. “We have three campuses and 130 acres to cover. It’s tiring, especially this winter. As soon as we caught our breath to see where we left off, all the sudden we get hit with another [storm] and it’s right back work.”

Now that the worst of the winter weather has passed, Grounds Maintenance is continuing with upgrades to the Estate Gardens due east of the Manor House. The restoration of the Estate Gardens will provide a change of foliage as well as irrigation systems for that area of campus. Currently, the Estate Garden runs on the same irrigation system that was used when it was planted and designed in the 1920s. This requires hand watering, which is costly and inefficient.

In trying to restore the gardens to their original condition, Ashwell consulted historic photos of the Estate Garden.

“How did it get from a manicured garden that was very presentable and aesthetically pleasing, to this overgrown growth?” Ashwell said.

The Estate that houses LC today underwent multiple changes in ownership. As a result, shrubs and trees grew out of control, with each owner of the Estate not knowing what to do with the design of the Garden.

Under the guidance of Ingrid Hallin, the landscape designer responsible for the replanting done for the Estate Garden section by the reflecting pool, Grounds Maintenance hopes to save precious water resources by automating and modernizing the irrigation system through a series of sprinklers and irrigation lines. The restoration and modernization of the Estate Garden will be completed by May 2017.

After finishing the largest section of the Estate Garden, Grounds Maintenance will begin begin working on the swimming pool and pool house area, as well as the flag pole terrace, tennis court area and the rose garden.

On the Graduate School campus behind the South Chapel, plans for a grief garden are underway. Sponsored in part by Spiritual Life, the grief garden will give a space for students, staff, and faculty who need a place to grieve.

“It will be a quiet, out of the way area,” Ashwell said about the planned grief garden. “It’s going to be a space for people to go and leave flowers or light candles. It should be a quiet area of solitude for people to go.”

Construction on the grief garden is in its infancy. Ashwell is meeting with the contractor in the coming days to get an estimate on the cost of the construction and design.

 In regards to maintaining status as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S. according to publications like The Huffington Post and Thrillist, Ashwell had motivating words for his department.

“If we get complacent with what we have, we will cease to even be on the list [of the most beautiful campuses],” Ashwell said. “There are colleges and universities that are striving to make the list or do whatever they can to get some notoriety. We would be stupid to just sit back and enjoy it. We have to constantly be striving to better what we have. That’s the focus. Lets not get comfortable. Let’s strive for something better.”


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