How Grounds Makes a Difference
In our green industry, the jobs we perform are very diverse. Some of us are Golf Course Superintendents; some are irrigationists, others Sports-Turf Managers, Landscape Designers, and even a Head Groundskeeper or two. Likewise, the organizations we participate in are diverse also. There are commercial and residential, public and private, profit or not-for-profit. Drilling down even deeper, our diverse organizations are comprised of sections or units that all have different specialties, united to create some service or product. Given this segmentation, creating camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose can be challenging. Fortunately, our organizational grounds are well suited to making a difference for all our stakeholders.
I say it is obvious the way in which most of us make a difference for our organizations is aesthetically. Regardless of why we landscape, be it curb appeal, landscape contracting, or to maintain a playable golf course, the appearance of our work is on full display. The appearance of our landscapes says something about our organizations. A well-landscaped campus or course shows we take pride in our roles, and respect the people that will be visiting or playing in the landscape. However, the landscape reaches out also. Even if members of our communities just commute past our sites, our landscapes provide a gift to our neighbors and fellow citizens. A nice landscape can increase property values, decrease crime, and improve the visit-ability of an area. These are positive impacts that go beyond just the 'look' of a campus.
Drury University is in the urban center of Springfield, Missouri. What a visitor notices when coming to our campus is the way in which the larger landscape changes on our campus. What I mean is the amount of green space significantly increases compared to our neighboring areas. In addition, even for those of you whose landscapes are not in urban areas, I imagine many of your campuses/courses are now surrounded by increasing development of different kinds. Development in any area means that the environmental and ecological role our landscapes play is becoming more significant, and more important to our communities environmental health. Our landscapes decrease stormwater runoff, increase water infiltration and cleaning, remove pollution from the air and sequester CO2. The green space and plants (even expanses of turf) decrease heat island effects and generate oxygen. These are extremely valuable contributions and should be acknowledged and appreciated by our communities.
The manner in which our sites improve community health is largely based around pollution mitigation attributes, but goes beyond this aspect also. Our sites and the green space they represent go a long way to improving the mental health and wellness of our communities. Green space (especially complex plantings and ecosystems) have a very positive effect on people's attitudes. Green space is soothing and calming and has been shown to decrease feelings of stress.
Our sites and the green space they represent go a long way to improving the mental health and wellness of our communities...
Another important way that our greenspaces can improve community health is by supporting physical activity. Many of our sites our publicly accessible to some degree and provide very nice environments for walking, jogging and other modes of exercise. Even private locations will frequently allow members to use the locations for recreation. Drury University has several walking courses and welcomes activity from our Drury community and our neighbors. This aspect is a welcome contribution given that other greenspaces may not be accessible.
I suggest that Grounds is unique to any organization in the ability to support organizational strategy. Here at Drury University obviously our primary objective is to provide excellent education at an excellent value. Grounds helps this effort by providing a beautiful, safe, functional landscape within economic constraints. For any campus or course, grounds can align easily with any of the strategic imperatives an organization may have. Marketing, outreach, playability, value, environmentalism are easily supported by the landscapes at our sites. The only limitation that a campus or course has for aligning with strategic objectives is imagination. Grounds Supervisors and Managers will be well served to get to know other department staffs and seek to share their objectives. By supporting broad efforts from elsewhere in our organizations, we can become even more beneficial to our teams.
The only limitation that a campus or course has for aligning with strategic objectives is imagination...
The truth is that an organization's Grounds Crew touches all aspects of the group. While most stakeholders know about our efforts to beautify our campuses, or improve playability of our courses, they do not always appreciate how diverse a crew can be in supporting our groups. By taking some time to improve communications between parts of our organizations we might all be surprised at where Grounds may pop up and what they might be able to do to support our mutual success.