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Landscapers keep winter weather at bay

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Snow is a reality that students at Notre Dame have to live with, but it is one landscaping services actually has to deal with. Manager of landscaping services Pat McCaulsin and his team of 33 groundskeepers are responsible for keeping all 1,250 acres of Notre Dame safe and clean during the winter months.

“Starting Dec. 1, we break into three shifts,” McCauslin said. “The first shift works from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the second shift of five guys work from 3:30 to 11 and the final shift of three guys works from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.”

When the weather gets really bad, the groundskeepers work in two 12-hour shifts, from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. They are also all on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week all winter long, McCaulsin said.

In keeping campus clean, McCaulsin and his team utilize different equipment depending on what area they are removing snow from.

The groundskeepers use two-and-a-half-ton trucks to plow and spread salt on the large parking lots. They also have four one-ton trucks to clear the smaller parking lots. Four pick-up trucks are in service cleaning off areas too small for the one-ton truck, McCaulsin said.

“We have seven bobcats with brooms that sweep walkways, as well as spread salt and liquid ice melter,” McCaulsin said. “There’s also a pickup that spreads [liquid ice melter].”

Along with the equipment, there are two groundskeepers charged with keeping the stairwells and handicapped ramps clean. They do this with manual labor.

Basically the job landscaping services is tasked with is to keep campus open and running as usual, even when the weather gets in the way.

“With the diversity of campus, the people not used to the snow, when we have over one inch we are at full scale operations,” McCaulsin said. “Our goal is to have everything done at least once before 7 a.m.”

The hardest part of landscaping’s job is that they have no control over the snow when it’s falling. The groundskeepers refer to the snow that stops and then starts again as the “five o’clock curse.”

“The most disheartening part of the job is when it snows and snows,” groundskeeper Matt Brazo said. “You just can’t keep up.”

McCaulsin said what makes this job worth it is his staff.

“They are dedicated and have a sense of loyalty to their jobs,” he said. “Notre Dame takes priority in the winter.”

Brazo said the best part of the job for him is the pride in keeping campus up and running, even in bad weather.

Groundskeeper Terron Phillips said working with McCaulsin makes the job worth it, as well as the recognition the landscaping crew receives.

“The recognition and praise we receive for what we do [is the best part of the job],” Phillips said. “I’ve been here 16 years, and we’ve gotten the most [recognition] this year for our work.”

When the winter season is done, the landscaping crew is still hard at work. In the spring, especially the month of May, their biggest job is preparing campus for commencement, McCaulsin said.

They also mow the grass, trim shrubs and trees and plant flowerbeds at all the new construction projects and dorm renovations.