A Campus on Solid Grounds

A Campus on Solid Grounds

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

A national organization dedicated to the development of parks and grounds has recognized Boston College for excellence in campus maintenance.

Grounds Maintenance Manager James Slattery (far right), Facilities Management Associate Director Thomas Hurley (far left) and members of the University's grounds maintenance posed with some of their handiwork last year.
At a conference held earlier this week in Reno, Nev., the National Institute on Park and Grounds Management presented Grounds Maintenance Manager James Slattery the 2003 "Excellence in Maintenance for Campuses" award.

To apply for the award, Boston College administrators were required to submit a five-page report detailing the physical description of the campus and the responsibilities of the University's Grounds Maintenance division. Twenty-five photos depicting various areas of the BC campus also were submitted.

"We have a really hard working and dedicated group of guys working here and it's great to see them recognized for their efforts," said Slattery, a 26-year BC veteran who accepted the award at the NIPGM conference.

Grounds Maintenance, a division of Facilities Services, is comprised of 27 workers whose responsibilities range from maintaining the University's lawns, shrubbery, flowers and trees to setting up the tables, chairs and podiums for functions. Some members of Grounds Maintenance are highly specialized, such as gardener Scott Jones and landscape worker Joseph Reardon, an arborist.

"It's a lot of responsibility," said Slattery. "But we're up to the challenge."

Slattery said his department's success is based on effective use of a concept known as "zone management" in which a single worker is responsible for landscaping a designated area of campus.

"It creates a sense of ownership and pride," said Slattery.

Over time, he added, a landscaper may develop a relationship with other members of the BC community who work or study in the landscaper's "zone."

"That's really helpful when little problems arise," said Slattery. "Communication is important."

Slattery said BC's landscape, along with its gothic architecture, are important and intangible assets in the University's appeal to visitors.

The biggest challenge for the crew, Slattery said, is Commencement Weekend, when BC welcomes some 30,000 people to campus, many of whom carry cameras and seek scenic backdrops to their photos.

The responsibilities that weekend include "cutting every single blade of grass on campus," planting, grooming and maintaining flowers and bushes and setting up stages, chairs and podiums for graduation ceremonies.

"What can I say?" asked Slattery. "These guys are good."


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