Washtenaw’s sterling grounds crew gets an early start on summer
As the Sun’s summer rays begin to warm Washtenaw’s campus, the natural beauty of the college comes alive. Students can thank the changing of seasons for this beautification, but WCC’s grounds crew is also hard at work to make the school look its best.
“When I see the beautiful tulips starting to come up, I know somebody cares,” said Dorothy Ford, a 62-year-old Ypsilanti resident studying business management. “You can see their heart behind it.”
Maintenance and beautifying WCC’s campus falls on the shoulders of the grounds crew year-round. The department is overseen by Facilities Management and its Associate Vice President Damon Flowers.
The grounds crew, consisting of 12 full-time and two part-time employees, operates under an annual budget of $1.3 million – covering workers’ pay, tools and mechanical work for the motorized carts driven around campus by workers.
Flowers is certain that the money is worth the effect that an eloquent campus has on visitors and potential students. He ventured that WCC is unique in the amount of undeveloped space on campus. Flowers expects more than 10,000 plants will be given root at WCC this summer.
“The appearance of the campus is an extremely high priority. It’s the first impression,” Flowers said. “The grounds are the first thing you see coming onto campus. Compared to Schoolcraft or Wayne County Community College, we have way more natural space than them.”
That space is tailored to the college’s wishes in rain or sunshine. Many on the crew take pride in their jobs and especially in perfecting the schools image for visitors.
“You do something different every day,” said Harry Doone Jr., a groundskeeper who worked at Washtenaw from 1998 to 2003 and rejoined the team this spring. “We’re trying to button everything up and get it ready. The better it looks, the better we look.”
While Doone is busy weeding the afternoon grass around the community park, another groundskeeper has been at work since 4 a.m., picking up trash and removing debris before the day has even started.
“It’s rewarding,” said Kelly Johnson, who has worked on the crew for two years this spring. “You get to make the college look pretty. It’s great.”
Johnson explained how the crew starts picking up trash at 4 a.m. and continues until about 6 or 7 a.m. when cars start arriving. They then proceed with the various tasks for the day. This season, the work generally consists of weeding and removing dead material, renewing the campus from winter stress.
Due to unseasonably warm weather this spring, the grounds crew started its summer efforts earlier than normal, according to Flowers. He is excited that the work will be completed by early May, before Memorial Day.
“The warm weather did cause a push,” Flowers said. “We put a lot of efforts into the spring this year.”
Flowers applauded the tireless efforts put forth by his groundskeepers. Aware of the intensity of the labor, he maintains that the work is not for everyone.
“It takes a certain type of person to work grounds,” Flowers said. “They work in harsh situations. I think we have the right people in those jobs.”
Carl Weathers knows it’s the job for him. An outdoorsman his whole life, Weathers wouldn’t have any job, especially one that puts four walls around him.
“I enjoy groundskeeping because it’s nice to be outside,” Weathers said. “Even in the winter, it’s better than being indoors.”