Grounds crew keeps Bowdoin green
So spring is here (at least according to the calendar). That means soon we'll be romping through the grass, studying on the Quad, and frolicking beneath the Pines. Every day we enjoy our scenic campus without much consideration for all the work and thought involved in the formidable task of keeping Bowdoin beauteous.
Our College has a wonderful grounds crew that is basically responsible for "everything outside," as Grounds Manager Tim Carr puts it. It handles trash and recycling, shovels sidewalks after snowstorms, and takes care of anything alive on our campus-from large and vicious squirrels to daylilies. Managing the entire outdoor area of a campus is a complex job and leaves our school with the opportunity to be very progressive in implementing sustainable grounds management practices. Fifteen full-time employees work with natural processes, giving the environment priority.
For example, Bowdoin uses a compost tea, where contents go through a process that adds various materials like kelp extract and decomposing woodchips, as well as soaks and aerates the composted material. The result is beneficial bacteria and fungi that serve an important purpose. Protozoa feed on the bacteria generated from the compost process, and these organisms excrete nutrients, namely nitrogen. This nitrogen can be substituted for large amounts of fertilizer, limiting the environmental effects of too many chemicals while turning waste into something quite valuable. This is just one of the many methods the grounds crew incorporates into a policy that Carr describes as a balance between nature and chemicals.
In the past few years, Grounds has been responsible for planting many new trees on the Bowdoin campus. Few realize the amount of thought, energy, and money that go into this process. Many of the trees on campus are similar in age-about 70 to 80 years old, a vulnerable age where trees could easily start failing. There are a variety of techniques that Grounds uses to keep them healthy. It also adds new trees each year, being sure to replace any dead or removed ones.
People often wonder if all the watering during the warmer months at Bowdoin is actually necessary. Carr explained that every inch of a newly planted tree's diameter is equal to the number of years it needs to be regularly watered. So, for example, a tree with a five-inch diameter needs to carefully watered and monitored for the next five years. Also, a new tree is a huge investment: buying a partially matured one is usually $2,000 to $3,000, with an additional $1,000 to $2,000 for installation.
There are plenty of other sustainable practices that Bowdoin's grounds crew have integrated into its management of the campus. A few of them include composting leaves and grass clippings to create loam that can be used as dirt, spending considerable time picking up trash, trying a substitute to the salt normally used to de-ice walkways, and minimizing the planting of non-native species-with a focus on more drought-resistant vegetation.
So now when you're out and about campus, take some time to think about all our grounds crew does. It works incredibly hard, has a multifaceted job, and definitely has not only a green thumb but a green outlook, too.
Also, make things easier for our groundskeepers by being sure to throw your trash and recycling in the right places, being sure to park in designated areas, and stay on marked paths when possible!
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