Pandemic fails to slow Landscape Services team

· 4 min read

Pandemic fails to slow Landscape Services team

A Landscape Services employee mows the green space west of the Van Brunt Visitors Center. The university's landscape team has maintained momentum through the COVID-19 pandemic, observing health protocols while also maintaining campus grounds.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
A Landscape Services employee mows the green space south of Kauffman Academic Residential Center. The university's landscape team has maintained momentum through the COVID-19 pandemic, observing health protocols while also maintaining campus grounds.

It’s been a blooming good season for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Landscape Services team.

An early adopter of using facial coverings and hand sanitizer, the 70-plus strong Husker grounds crew hasn’t missed a step in its seasonal care of the university’s 325 acres of green space, some 7,000 trees and nearly 35 miles of paved sidewalks.

“We’ve had great leadership from the get go, which has helped us continue working without any COVID-related issues,” said Jeff Culbertson, assistant director of landscape operations. “In so many ways we’ve been fortunate and this has been a very normal season for us.

“Though, we have been able to complete a few more projects because so much of the campus community has been working for home or learning remotely.”

Landscape Services' Laurence Ballard (front, left) and Joel Tabor (back, right) plant varieties of coral bells in the Westbrook Music Building plaza on Sept. 15. The project featured more than 50 plants, including the coral bells, witch alder and DeGroot’s spire arborvitae. Eileen Bergt (not pictured) said the space will include the addition of boxwood when it arrives from the nursery.

Major projects crossed off the Landscape Services task list include concrete replacement of the entire plaza on the east side of Avery Hall; an extensive array of sidewalk improvements; expanding planting beds on campus (including redesigns outside Westbrook Music Building, Woods Hall and the Barkley Center on Sept. 15 alone); gaining ground in an overall plan to reduce ash tree totals on campus (due to the threat of Emerald Ash Borer); and a focus on improving the green space immediately west of the Cather Dining Center (where the Cather and Pound residence halls previously stood).

“We added irrigation and improved the turf, making that old Cather-Pound site more of a meeting space for students and campus events,” Culbertson said. “Housing hosted a movie night there a couple of weeks ago. It’s a good addition to campus as it allows people to spread out for an event — which is important as we try to limit COVID exposure.”

While the team has been cutting, trimming, digging, planting and pouring, they’ve also maintained a focus on COVID-related protocols. Along with wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and using hand sanitizer, they’ve held big meetings either via Zoom or at large outdoor spaces; observed one-person per vehicle guidelines; disinfected common spaces, including shared computers, after each use; and staggered work start times and breaks to reduce the number of employees in shared gathering spaces at any one time.

“It’s been a lot of little changes, but our staff has done an excellent job following protocols without complaint,” Culbertson said. “A big part of that is because we all understand the situation and no one wants to get the virus. We also love what we do for the university and take pride in being able to be out on campus, maintaining the grounds for everyone to enjoy when they do return.”

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