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The arrival of warmer weather means grounds operations in institutional and commercial facilities are entering their most active phase. Grounds crews are focused on the mowers, utility vehicles, skid steers, and smaller pieces of equipment they will use to maintain turf, trim, edge, and plant.
But for most grounds managers, warmer weather also means it is time to start preparing the department for the cooler weather of fall and, all too soon, winter. With equipment and plants accounted for, managers next can turn to the essential steps in preparing crews for their fall and winter responsibilities.
"Snow removal and inclement weather procedures and responsibilities are reviewed with staff," says Susanne Woodell, historic gardens manager for the 8,000-acre Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C., which is also a commercial and hospitality facility. "Emergency heating procedures for greenhouses are reviewed. As newer staff is exposed to seasonal tasks, procedures and safety measures are reviewed and someone works with them for training."
New employees unfamiliar with both the equipment and the terrain can present a particular planning challenge for managers.
"Training is a key component for new people who come into the snow plan, so we use our group leaders — the people who are actually out in the field — to help train these new employees on how to operate the pieces of equipment," says Gerry Dobbs, park services superintendent with the Cordova Recreation and Park District in Rancho Cordova, Calif., who also worked at Michigan State University. "It's also important that we map out their route so they actually have a picture of their route. We do spend a fair amount of time preparing for the winter and training staff on how to respond to winter."
As institutional and commercial facilities tear down outdated buildings, construct new ones in their place and otherwise alter the landscape, managers need to incorporate changes — both small and large — into their planning and procedures. For this phase, they also can rely on their staffs, as well as other departments.
"We ask the front-line staff to make us aware of any changes," Dobbs says. "For the two universities I worked at, it also was extremely important to keep close ties with engineering and architectural group so we were aware of any road changes or any construction changes that are important so we can adjust our snow-removal schedule. It was also important for us to have a working relationship with the police department at both universities. We also worked with security, as well. From them, we learned the primary road access we needed to open up first, as well as sidewalk access."