Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002


The flower beds in front of the Alumni House. The rose garden in the OSH (Orson Spencer Hall) plaza. The bowl of native plants near HPER (Health, Physical Education and Recreation complex).

Thanks to the U's grounds crew, any walk across campus is never simply a trip from Point A to Point B. One of the most often mentioned pleasures of the University, the landscaping — from rolling lawns to beds of shrubs to rows of trees — invites a slower pace, a reason to stop and smell the roses. Real ones.

"Our crew really takes pride in the campus," says Sue Pope BS'85, the grounds supervisor. That crew includes 48 full-time and up to 10 seasonal employees who cover more than 800 campus acres. They care for the flowers, climbing vines, and ground cover as well as the 50-acre golf course, 15-20 acres of athletic fields, the campus trees, and the off-campus estates, including the residences of the president and the senior vice president for health sciences and the former alumni house. Every year they plant more than 50,000 flowers, most of which are grown in the University's own greenhouse. And in the winter, snow and leaf removal, salting, tree pruning, and grooming keep them as busy as the mowing, irrigating, and planting in the spring and summer.

Pope, who began working in the greenhouse while she was completing her education degree, says that she and her crew have worked hard to improve the maintenance during the past several years. "We have a campus standard now," she says. "We mow at a consistent height, we do edging and whipping at certain times, we spray once a week, and we have a specific size for tree wells." It helps, she says, that many grounds employees have two- or four-year degrees in horticulture.

Of course, even landscaping is not without its controversies, especially in the summer. The need to conserve Utah's water has led not only to yellowish patches of grass on campus but also to improved water management techniques throughout the U's grounds, including better monitoring of the watering, the use of more drought-resistant plants, and more Xeriscaping. While some on campus believe more should be done — removing much of the lawn, for example — others, Pope says, complain about the beds of native plants already in place.

Most often, however, the landscaping elicits comments like those of Robert Avery, professor of communication: "There is not a public park in this state that is better maintained," he notes. "For me, this is the Utah state park!"

Return to Table of Contents