Feature Article - March 2002
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Grounds Forces

The latest challenges and strategies in grounds maintenance

By Mitch Martin

Tools of the trade
The Great Lawn area of Overpeck County
Park in Leonia, N.J., is subjected to a variety
of uses by hundreds of daily visitors and
special events with 15,000 visitors and more.
Department of Parks staff create a
bulkhead along a shoreline to deter Canada
geese from grazing on lawn areas.

Another change in the tools of the trade is the small revolution in recent years in the variety of motorized grounds care equipment available to crews. Skid-steers, mowers, aerators and utility vehicles can now perform more specialized turf care tasks. Greater articulation and some computerization have allowed even such complex tasks as logging to be done in a more mechanized fashion. In general, the range and quality of attachments allows each platform to do more.

Because grounds maintenance is such a labor-intensive industry, Pouly says the trend in the industry is the purchasing of more equipment.

"It's all being driven by labor costs," Pouly says. "A good piece of equipment can run 24 hours a day, and it doesn't charge overtime."

The savings are not just in straight salary costs, either.

"I think it will help with the longevity of the skilled labor you do have because the equipment makes the work much easier on their bodies," he says. "And that also means less injuries and less workmen's (compensation) claims and that sort of thing."

Cochran says while he thinks such equipment can be helpful, he is concerned about the expense and true utility of it. He says his 9,000-acre park district is taking advantage of the attachments but tends to use the implements off the back end of traditional farm-style tractors.

"I think that equipment is more appealing to the landscape maintenance contractor," Cochran says. "It's not as applicable to the type of thing we're doing."

He says he is somewhat concerned that the multi-use machine might make a day's work too vulnerable.

"You have one piece of equipment that's a do-everything machine with 20 attachments on it," Cochran says. "What happens if that one machine goes down? It's kind of an all-your-eggs-in-one-basket thing for me."