Fallen leaves, accumulated snow and the unrelenting heat are some of the obstacles groundskeepers must overcome to ensure UD’s 400-acre campus keeps its appeal for both residents and visitors alike.
Eighteen groundskeepers begin work at 6 a.m., according to Brian Coulter, the executive director of grounds.
“We have a great crew,” Coulter said. “They do a great job.”
Each groundskeeper is assigned to one of 20 zones on campus, which they keep attractive, safe and clean. Every eight-hour day begins with a trash run through their zone to pick up sticks, leaves and debris.
Vince Radominski, a four-year member of the grounds crew, takes pride in what he accomplishes every day. His zone is the center of campus by St. Mary’s Hall, the Science Center and Marycrest Complex.
“Knowing that people come through and make a comment to our bosses or someone else on how beautiful everything is, that is rewarding,” he said.
Each season brings a new set of tasks and difficulties and with big events, such as move-in weekend, family weekend and graduation, there is an increased workload.
Thirty types of annuals are planted before August move-in. These require the most attention, needing to be watered every other day. Additionally, 1,200 yards of mulch is laid.
Visitors can expect to see a lot of begonias and sunpatiens.
“The goal is to have campus in tip-top shape,” said Rob Eichenauer, associate director of grounds, maintenance and operations.
Spring and summer weather comes with unpredictable rain. While grass is typically cut once a week, the surplus of water in these seasons forces groundskeepers to sometimes cut the grass twice in one day. This brings the added difficulty of keeping grass shavings out of the beds, flowers and walkways.
“The heat of the summer can drain you mentally and physically,” Radominski said. “It’s 95 degrees out and you’re physically exerting yourself. You can wear yourself down.”
Once the leaves start to change color and fall to the ground, the groundskeepers stay busy raking and cleaning out the beds in preparation to plant 12 types of tulips, the most common bulb around campus.
While design choices and layouts are determined each year, a consistent emphasis on bright colors that pop and accentuate buildings is maintained. Red, orange and yellow are the most common choices.
Winter brings the most challenges. Groundskeepers work through cold temperatures, wind and darkness, and large snow storms often lead to longer shifts.
“You never know when you’re going home,” Radominski said.
Beginning work days unexpectedly at 2 a.m. is not uncommon for the crew during the winter time when unpredictable snow storms hit. Eichenauer said all walkways must be cleared by 7:30 a.m. in time for the first classes at 8 a.m.
The grounds team understands the importance of presenting campus at its best for current, future and past students.
“It gives a safe, comfortable feel,” Eichenauer said. “A home-type feel that looks like a clean environment to be in.”
Rick Krysiak, the vice president for facilities management and planning, said the campus itself serves as a student recruitment tool. The grounds create the first impression of the university when potential students and their parents tour campus.
But it’s not just prospective students who fall in love with UD’s campus at first sight.
“An hour before my interview for this position, I drove around campus and I had to stop,” Krysiak said. “The grounds were impeccable and the flowers popped. It sold me. This place is great.”
First and third photos taken by Christian Cubacub. Second photo taken by Sean Newhouse.