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Grounds managers at institutional and commercial facilities rely on mowers, skid steers and utility vehicles as mainstays for their departments. The attachments designed for these machines help staffs accomplish many tasks while minimizing the need to purchase additional machines.
Adding attachments such as mowing decks, brooms, aerators and sprayers can lighten the workload for grounds staffs which are often more limited than ever before, as three managers discuss the challenges related to equipment and attachments.
The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has topped many Best U.S. City lists for years. While many factors account for the city’s popularity, not all pertain to its nickname, The Scenic City.
The city’s vast collection of community parks might be the impetus behind that moniker. The park system includes larger, 100-plus-acre signature parks, linear greenway systems that span for miles and smaller, one-quarter-acre neighborhood parks.
These parks connect visitors to nature, but behind the lush green spaces overflowing with playgrounds, benches, pavilions, dog parks and athletic fields is a full-time, 45-person grounds maintenance team charged with maintaining the city's diverse collection of parks all year long.
“As a growing city, it’s become increasingly challenging to keep up,” says James Bergdoll, director of parks maintenance for the Chattanooga Department of Parks & Outdoors. “We always look for new ways to be more efficient.”
The North Area Athletic Complex (NAAC) is the home site for six high schools in the Jefferson County School District in Golden, Colorado. The complex includes a range of fields and grounds to care for, including football and soccer fields.
Sun Roesslein, NAAC stadium manager, says she looks for grounds equipment attachments that meet multiple needs. She says this builds efficiency because workers “can get multiple jobs done with one main piece of equipment.”
Versatile equipment that can accomplish multiple tasks builds efficiencies and saves storage space, which is at a premium in most operations. For example, the 10-acre campus of Rogers Behavioral Health in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, has a 30-foot by 40-foot garage that stores equipment for the campus’s grounds care operation, salt pallets and hospital equipment.
“It’s a decent footprint, but it can get pretty tight,” says Jeff Krueger the hospital’s operations manager, adding he looks for equipment that serves dual purposes for this reason.
Bergdoll also wants multi-use attachments in Chattanooga.
“While you will always need the base equipment, such as a skid steer or a mower, being able to add multiple attachments to that piece of equipment extends its usefulness,” he says. “For example, if you have multiple attachments for a skid steer, you can do landscape work one day and forestry or vegetation management the next.”
Attachments also make hauling equipment more efficient.
“We put one piece of equipment on a trailer with several attachments and haul it to different sites,” Bergdoll says.
Their lower price tags are also appealing.
“A base unit has a higher cost, while attachments are available at a much lower cost and build in greater versatility,” Bergdoll says. “You no longer need as many pieces of dedicated equipment to do the job. Versatility can allow you to do more with your equipment. Every day is different in the parks industry. You need the ability to do more than one thing with a base unit. Attachments help you do that.”
The versatility allows the parks department to swap out mower decks on its mowers.
“We can put a mowing deck on the mower or a broom brush for hard surfaces, or we can add turbine blowers or an aerifier,” he says. “There are even grading boxes.”
The Chattanooga operation also plans to add mini skid steers with multiple attachments that will allow groundskeepers to work in small, tight areas with less impact on the grounds.
“These units use low ground pressure with turf tires, so they will protect the grounds while serving multiple purposes,” he says.
The city also plans to purchase a forestry mulching attachment to help groundskeepers more efficiently remove invasive species in the spring.
“The new forestry mulching attachments provide an efficient way to remove unwanted vegetation,” Bergdoll says.
Attachment innovations also are readily found in specialized equipment needed to maintain sports fields and turf. The NAAC operation recently added a heavy-duty mower for fraise mowing of sports fields.
“This tool is one of many in our arsenal that helps us provide high-quality, safe, natural grass playing surfaces for our athletes,” Roesslein says.
Snow removal also warrants attachments, she says. The NAAC has to plow fields and sidewalks when there is snow during the sports season.
“I prefer box-type attachments, so I’m not pushing snow sideways and accumulating more,” she says. “I like moving snow off the playing surface with a box as opposed to a flat blade. It’s also critical to have a rubber bit or rounded edge on the bottom to protect the playing field. We also use a hydraulic broom for our sidewalks and find it works really well.”
NAAC also maintains a wish list for future attachment additions, which include large snow removal equipment and an aerator that does not need to be transported between locations or scheduled around other stadiums in the district.
For snow removal, Krueger says he prefers V-shaped plows attached to pickup trucks for its parking lots, where up to 250 vehicles might be parked.
“We look for ways to maneuver through a tight parking lot and increase the effectiveness of the plow row,” he says. “When pushing snow, we need flexibility and creativity.”
Attachments Add Versatility to Equipment Fleets and Staffs