Landscape Maintenance: Feature Profile
Landscape Maintenance: Feature Profile
Ask students about the campus landscape and their responses can range from “beautiful” to “spirited.” But it doesn’t there.
Dylan Ireland, junior in political science from Overland Park, describes the campus as “enjoyable.”
“Well, not right now with the construction and everything. But usually it is nice.”
Pedro Oviedo, sophomore in music, agrees that construction is hurting the campus’ natural appearance.
“I feel kind of sad when I saw the trees being cut up for this new building (Overman Student Center expansion) and everything,” he said.
The person ultimately responsible for keeping the campus looking good, even in times of heavy construction, is Cate Breneman, the university’s landscape architect.
Breneman says this is “definitely a very busy summer” on campus. Exciting projects are under way, with more to come.
Among those projects are landscaping for the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, on which landscape crews have begun work. Specifically, the center is getting bioretention basins. The goal is to remove the contaminants and sediments from water runoff and filter them through the plants’ root systems. Instead of allowing stormwater to run into storm sewers, it will instead percolate into the groundwater after it’s been filtered. This process also helps keep the existing storm sewers from being inundated.
The next step for the center, Breneman says, is installing the actual landscape, which will start in the middle of August.
Planning for such projects is one of Breneman’s responsibilities.
“As far as the landscape for Center for the Arts, I had digital drawings of the building, parking lot, sidewalk layouts, that sort of thing,” she said.
Breneman says she and her crew have a couple of other projects they’re tackling this summer.
“Some are going to be really exciting, and I’m not quite at liberty to talk about them,” Breneman said.
Employees are hard at work on other renovations as well as routine maintenance.
Summer is not the only season when landscape maintenance occurs. This is year-round work for the department of 15 employees. That number increases to 25 during the summer when students are hired to help.
Those employees aren’t sitting still, either, even in the winter. All of the tropical plantings that employees use during the summer have to be maintained in an on-campus greenhouse, a hub of activity during the off-season. Starts are grown from March until May. Also, employees maintain the presentation greens that are used for various events on campus, ranging from the Nursing Department’s pinning ceremony to groundbreaking ceremonies in the Oval.
Breneman’s employees have faced several challenges because of the ongoing construction, including slight disruptions of mowing and watering routes.
“From a construction standpoint, especially if you’re on the Oval,” Breneman said, “it is going to definitely impact the surrounding landscape, especially the grass.” She anticipates a fairly major renovation being necessary at the end of construction.
“We just keep going, that’s all we can do,” she said. “We try to be flexible as much as possible.”
Instead, her pet peeve is people who tear up trees for no reason whatsoever.
“Or people taking swipes at our flower beds with various implements,” she said. “We’ve had a number of beds in previous years. People would just come up and topple a banana tree just because they think it’s fun. Destroying a tree, that’s my biggest thing.”
During summer’s heat, Breneman tries to make things as comfortable as possible for employees. They get scheduled breaks and are encouraged to find a shady spot and take additional breaks in air-conditioned spaces when needed. They also are encouraged to wear proper clothing and stay well hydrated.
And, employees say they enjoy the work.
Taylor Rea, a summer employee who graduated from PSU in May with a degree in music, is one of them.
“I personally prefer manual labor over sitting at a desk,” she said. “I like being active.”
That sentiment was repeated by Tess Weast, a senior nursing student and seasonal employee.
“I enjoy getting to work with my hands and being outside,” Weast said. “The people we get to work with are wonderful as well.”