The following article was written by Dave Jones, for UC Davis Dateline.
Group photo of the Grounds and Landscape Services team
Every institution of higher education knows the importance of accreditation, like UC Davis’ recent 10-year renewal from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Now we have another accreditation to be proud of — for landscape management and operations on the Davis campus. The best-in-the-nation accreditation is from the Professional Grounds Management Society, which evaluated UC Davis Grounds and Landscape Services’ principles and practices for “attractive, healthy, sustainable and high quality” grounds.
The accreditation program is new this year: Only three campuses made the cut in the first round, with UC Davis the only one in California and the only one to get the top rating of four stars.
Carey Avery, Nelson Randolph, and Tyson Mantor (center three) accepting the accreditation award at a ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I could not be more proud of our team,” said Cary Avery, an associate director in Campus Planning and Community Resources. He leads Grounds and Landscape Services and has his own accreditation from the Professional Grounds Management Society, as a certified grounds manager.
“The group of employees that we have working to maintain the health and safety of our campus environment is a top-notch group of people,” Avery said. “They care about each other, this place and the environment.”
The accreditation team had good things to say about Avery: “After talking and listening to Cary’s direct reports and representatives from the work force, it is clear that his leadership style and focus on relationship building are key factors to a harmonious, caring and dedicated workplace environment. “
Which brings us to the work itself: “Many people think that we are just a ‘mow-and-blow’ operation,” Avery said. “They’d be wrong. We have a hand in everything that happens outside.”
Here is a partial list, beyond the mowing and the blowing and raking:
- Tree care.
- Cleanup after storms.
- Sports turf maintenance (including the application of chalk lines).
- Assist students in their use of landscape installations for school projects, and help faculty members with tree care demonstrations for students.
- Manage everyday trash and recyclable collection, as well as event cleanup and zero-waste operations.
And, because they’re out and about all day, groundskeepers also give directions to lost visitors, Avery said.
“We have even been contacted by the Raptor Center to rescue an injured bird from a tree top! If this team can help, they will be there. They are incredible people.”
From Green Star to 4 stars
In 2006, the campus earned the highest rating of Grand Star in the Professional Grounds Management Society’s Green Star Awards program, which, according to Avery, was more about aesthetics. “The Grand Star wasn’t about our management practices, how we treat our customers or employees,” he said. “There’s no team that visits to make sure you are doing what you say you are doing.”
The new accreditation program, including site visits, focuses on environmental stewardship, economic performance and social responsibility.
“Collectively, the landscape management team projected a wealth of knowledge on contemporary grounds management strategies as well as a good familiarity with emerging management ideologies and innovations,” the accreditation team wrote. “Cary’s knowledge and effective use of sound grounds management strategies is evident from observing the results of site appropriate work processes and procedures and the delivery of an appreciable grounds product.”
Year-to-year water savings: 20 percent
UC Davis’ sustainability score reflected water savings of about 80 million gallons since Jan. 1, a reduction of more than 20 percent from the year before. Amid the state’s three-year drought, Gov. Jerry Brown has asked all institutions of higher learning to reduce water use by at least that much by the year 2020.
“We’ve done it already, and we hope to do even better next year,” Avery said.
He said the campus has 10 years of experience with “smart” control irrigation, and this allowed for an immediate cut of 20 percent or more in turf watering except on fields that are used for athletics or that have heavy use.
Continued analysis will allow for irrigation cuts of up to 50 percent in certain areas, depending on tree irrigation needs.
“New technologies now also allow our team to further refine irrigation settings with more site-specific information, including plant and soil type, and sun exposure,” Avery said.
“Landscapes where this technology has been implemented only receive water application when the soil and plant material reach a certain allowable depletion level.”
Also, the grounds crew has shut off all fountains and fixes irrigation leaks and overspray problems as quickly as possible after learning of them. To report leaks or overspray, call Facilities Management, (530) 752-1655.
In its executive summary, the evaluation team observed: “The University of California, Davis, has a very attractive campus with a visual appearance that can quickly and effectively generate interpretive discussions.
“There are a variety of landscaped areas and features that do not typically appear with as much regularity in the traditional campus setting” — the diversity of drought-tolerant and adaptive plantings (including those in several landscape conversions), the ground cover materials, bio swales and rain gardens, living walls and fences, and naturalized areas strategically interwoven throughout the campus.
“Clearly the integration of these types of sustainability elements with older or existing landscaped areas is a great challenge, and required strategies from a different maintenance and management paradigm,” the review team stated. “The University of California, Davis, campus displays a keen responsiveness to this reality.”
The accreditation report concluded: “The Grounds and Landscape Services unit (of the Arboretum and Public Garden) is playing a vital role in the university’s aspiration to provide an extraordinary experience as a visitor-centered destination, particularly at a time when the campus is in the midst of a historic and severe drought.”
Read the original article in Dateline.