Staff honored for grounds management excellence

Every day before the sun rises John Burns meets with his crew of 63 employees to determine how they are going to tackle the landscaping needs of more than 420 acres of University of Texas at Austin space.

It's no small feat dealing with the daily maintenance of grounds composed of 31 acres in shrubs, perennials and ground cover beds, 19,000 square feet in annual cover beds and 125 acres of turf, including 49 miles of edging.

A typical day for Landscape Services includes mowing, pulling weeds, trimming hedges, picking up trash and emptying trash cans.

Burns, manager of Landscape Services, said it is satisfying to turn an unappealing area into something beautiful for everyone.

"All of our landscape staff with leadership responsibilities all play very important roles in the daily maintenance of the campus," Burns said. "Beyond the leaders of the landscape section everyone plays a role that is very important. Without the groundskeeper removing the trash, mowing, or pulling weeds the campus would just not be as attractive."

The work of the landscape staff was recognized in late October by the Professional Grounds Management Society, which awarded the crew with a Grand Award in the Green Star Awards competition. The award was given in the Urban University Grounds category for exceptional grounds maintenance.

"This is a great honor to receive," Burns said. "It not only recognizes the efforts put in by my staff, but also The University of Texas at Austin's commitment towards enriching the lives of its students and faculty through green spaces."

Burns said the award is recognition for the hard work and dedication of every employee in Landscape Services.

"Personally I am proud to say I am a part of an award-winning organization, but most of all I am proud of all the staff in Landscape Services that make winning an award like this possible," he said.

Of all the places on the 420 acres served by Landscape Services, Burns said his favorite is the South Mall.

"This is a very simple area as far as landscape materials go," he said, "but with the trees along the sidewalks, the Tower to the north and Littlefield Fountain to the south, this area is what I consider to be the signature area of the campus.

"The Tower is a symbol that everyone recognizes on the campus, but to me the view is not complete without the grass on the South Mall in the foreground."