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Higher Grounds: Landscapes in the Spotlight


By Dan Hounsell Grounds Management
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri

If, in fact, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, how does the grass get that way? Few visitors to institutional and commercial facilities ever give much thought to the effort that grounds managers and their staffs put into maximizing the appearance of landscapes.

While many grounds departments are under pressure to ensure that landscapes and turf areas contribute to a facility’s first impression, the pressure is even greater for high-profile facilities. In Kansas City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the National WWI Museum and Memorial are two such fields, as reported by KSHB.

Photos taken at these two locations have won multiple awards. It’s where residents take out-of-town family and friends, where celebrations take place, where visitors take in unbeatable views. Maintaining the lush, green landscape that creates a striking contrast with the historic architecture is an effort that employs many people year-round.

"When the museum was first built, one of the first things that was done was a landscape plan, a design by George Kessler, who did a lot of the parks and the boulevard systems in Kansas City," says Chris Wyche, the National WWI Museum’s vice president for facilities and technology.

Like the WWI Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum uses science to maintain its property. The museum has a team on-site every day that monitors the moisture sensors and 150 irrigation zones.

"When you keep a lawn this wet, it gets a lot of fungus in it, so we have to manage that, as well," says Michael Cross, program manager for facilities at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. “These guys are really working all the time to keep this place in good shape.” Cross says the 22 acres at the museum has seven micro-climates. About five years ago, the museum switched to a bio-centric approach, using less fertilizer, nitrogen and weed-killer.

"It lowered the cost of maintenance a little bit and we managed to still keep it pretty, so we try to be good stewards of the land," Cross says.

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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