By Carrie Mauldin
As you walk to class this fall, you may notice how well maintained and conditioned the University of Georgia’s roughly 600-acre campus is. Who or what is to thank for this work? The answer is the UGA Grounds Department, a subdivision of the Facilities Management Division.
The Grounds Department, which consists of about 100 employees and is directed by W. Brett Ganas, is in charge of many of the projects and day-to-day tasks that help keep the UGA campus looking its best. A normal day for the department consists of checking and regulating drainage systems, irrigation (which is run by a computer based system), general landscape and overall manicuring of trees, shrubs and flower gardens, as well as maintenance of the various bike lanes around campus.
“We have a really clean campus, and I was really surprised with it being considered a party school, especially since I’d never visited the campus before I came here. I think our groundskeeping does a really good job keeping the campus tidy,” says Marcaz Smith, a freshman biology and psychology major from Valdosta.
With football season in full swing, one of the main priorities is taking care of the trash left behind by tailgaters on Saturdays. Highly visible areas of the campus, such as parking lots and areas with high traffic, need to be heavily cleaned to ensure that no litter is present for the following week.
“The people throwing the trash down are here for the UGA football games, so they should be the ones who respect this campus. It’s amazing that almost all of the trash is cleaned up the next day. I don’t think we give the UGA groundskeepers the credit and respect they deserve,” says Jane Yandel, a freshman japanese studies major from Roswell, Georgia.
Another concern for the grounds department during football season is the constant monitoring for safety of visitors. This includes providing clear visibility for cars and pedestrians through warranting that there are no low-hanging branches or safety hazards on campus.
The UGA Grounds Department is heavily involved in a number of restoration and sustainability projects on campus and in the local Athens area, specifically the Tree Campus USA Program. This program provides $1 million worth of trees to UGA to plant so that they can properly maintain and expand the tree canopy on campus.
The Tree Campus USA Program has recognized UGA several years in a row for being good stewards of the tree population on campus. Other current projects include renovation of the UGA Visitor’s Center, the law school, and the Aderhold College of Education. Anyone who visited UGA this past summer may have noticed the department’s Arch Restoration program, a project designed to restore the historical and highly identifiable UGA Arch, located near the downtown area.
Other sustainability projects occurring within the department include involvement with Watershed UGA, a program focused on cleaning the local streams in Athens both effectively and efficiently. Involvement with Watershed UGA includes the installation of rain gardens throughout campus. A rain garden allows for water from rain and runoff to be filtered by numerous plants before it is allowed to re-enter the reservoir. It essentially provides a natural and low maintenance filtration system for all the runoff water from storms. The use of solar panels on campus is being put into use as well. Examples of this implementation include the solar tables located near Herty Field, where students can charge their phones or laptops on a sunny day.
Another primary responsibility of the grounds department is to oversee and approve newly proposed campus projects and assist various on-campus groups. The focus of approving new projects is to design and review them, as well as ensure that they will be maintainable. In regards to assisting on-campus groups, the Grounds Department collaborated with the UGA College of Environmental Design to help turn several parking spots downtown into small gardens to promote more green space and sustainability.
So the next time you’re at Herty Field, the Arch or casually walking about campus, take a moment to appreciate what the grounds department does to keep UGA looking beautiful.