Outdoor Services Crew

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let the water flow!

A few weeks ago, the water on campus began to flow again.  Campus plants were screaming for water.  Some patience and many man hours were needed to make sure everything was ready.  After the irrigation team checked their communication equipment and pump houses, they moved on to the finer details of the system.  They had to be sure the miles of piping hidden below ground were ready to carry gallons and gallons of water. 

Until the water flows, areas such as you see in the pictures below, stay dry. 

 Remember the water hammer we were worried about a few weeks ago? Well, it is a real thing that could happen if care isn't taken in starting up the flow of water on campus. A four-man team splits up with one person standing in the pump station and the others stationed at the highest spot where quick cuplers have been placed. In manual mode, the water is slowly allowed to enter the line.

Air pockets built up over the winter are released.  If too much pressure is allowed in the line too fast...     BAM   water hammer will burst a line. The break could happen anywhere along the water line and hard to find. So this step is extremely important.

Success.... the campus turf, plants and trees now have water!

Work for the irrigation team doesn't stop.  They constantly monitor the use of water (not too much...not too little) and any problems that occur.  As new buildings come on line for the University, the irrigation team is called in to discuss irrigation needs for the new landscaping.  Now you know.  On campus, when you see water, think irrigation team!  They make it happen!

Stay tuned for:  Burst of Color!


Friday, April 24, 2015

It happened this week--Day of Service

If you were on campus Thursday, you might have seen people in yellow t-shirts.  A little over one hundred Division of Administration employees responded to the invitation from Steven Thweatt, Vice Chancellor of Administration, to take part in a Day of Service on April 23, 2015.
Rail Painters arrived and ready to go!

Hard at work.  First the rails were sanded and then painted.

Fresh coat of paint before Commencement Day

Painting rails with a smile!

Lunch is delivered!

Sticker Removers take a break to enjoy their bag lunches.
The groups tackled Boulder Creek cleanup, mulching, rail painting and sticker removal. For many, who usually work in a building all day, it was a chance to roll up sleeves and get outside. 
The work done was not only acknowledged by smiles from those passing through campus but several students walked by the volunteers and said “thank you”.  It is that type of interaction between staff and students that makes the University of Colorado Boulder campus such a great place to work and study.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Arbor Day--Now you know Latin!

I was curious about Arbor Day so I began reading a lot of articles about it.  I wanted to know when the first one was held and why.  My thought was that the holiday had to be named after someone famous named Arbor.  Nope...no Mr. Arbor was involved.

Then  I discovered Arbor was the Latin word for tree.  Who knows Latin?  Turns out, J. Sterling Morton did.  He moved to Nebraska in 1854 from New York to become the editor of the Nebraska City News.  Nebraska wasn't even a state yet.

Morton didn't have a grand plan, he just wanted his new home in Nebraska to have trees around it.  So, he and his wife began digging, planting and watering.  Soon their efforts were observed by others in the area who began to do the same thing.  Viola...Arbor Day!

Well, it didn't happen that fast.  Morton's first trees were planted at his home in 1854 and the first Arbor Day in the United States wasn't until April 10, 1872 but the idea of planting trees in the barren Nebraska land grew over the years.  Arbor Day even became law in Nebraska in 1885.

Planting trees caught on all over the United States.  Politicians used Arbor Day in their campaigns.  Everyone was planting trees, at least once a year.  Then, the day became less popular and a few decades passed with fewer Arbor Day parades and fanfare.

Keith Wood, from CO State Forest Service presents TCUSA 2014 certificate to CU Arboist, Vince Aquino  (April 18, 2015)
Fast forward to present day and a renewed vigor for all things natural.  We're in Boulder after all!

Alan Nelson, Senior Grounds Specialist (now retired), was the driving force getting the University of Colorado certified with Tree Campus USA (TCUSA) in 2010.  Every year since, CU has qualified and received a certificate showing it has engaged its students and campus community in promoting and maintaining trees.
University of Colorado Students: Holding flag left: James Watt; right Bodie Hultin. Standing from left to right:  Elizabeth Seaver, Joaquin Lagarrigue, Shannon Votaw, Erin Hauer, Emma Friesland, Grayson O'Roark, Caitlin Keller, Drew Holler, Asia Peters.  In back:  Keith Wood (CO State Forest Service), Vince Aquino (CU Arborist)  
CU celebrated Arbor Day on Saturday, April 18th.  Arborists Vince Aquino and Joel Serafin led a group of students and staff planting several trees on the Business Field (northwest side).  Keith Wood from the Colorado State Forest Service presented the University with its 2014 TCUSA certificate.  Thanks to the many students who took part.  Snow and rain did not deter them.  They are truly an inspiration as a group ready to safe guard our environment.  Great turn out by SALA (Student Association of Landscape Architects)! 

This year the official date for National Arbor Day is April 24th.  There will be a lot of digging, and planting by groups all over the United States.  Their goal will be to ensure safety, landscape needs and healthy homes for their new trees.

Fun Facts:  (1) an estimated one million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day in Nebraska. (2) The First World Arbor Day was held in 1805 in Villanueva de la Sierra, a small Spanish town. (3)  There is an Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, NE (4) Colorado's State tree is the Blue Spruce.  (5)  There are 92 Tree City USAs in Colorado, (Boulder has been a Tree City for 30 years). (6)  Colorado Arbor Day was April 17, 2015.

Utilities and irrigation lines were marked.  Students had to move snow to flag sites for new trees! (April 17, 2015)

Then the digging began.  Time to move the dirt. 

Once Vince Aquino, CU Arborist, explained the best method for planting trees, the students carefully put all six trees in the ground.  The trees are now growing on the Northwest corner of the Business Field.  (2 State Street Maples, 1 Bur Oak and 3 Montmorency Cherries)
Coming up next:  Let the water flow!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Wrapped up and going to a new home!

Tree selection is serious business for CU arborists (Vince Aquino and Joel Serafin).  On a recent visit to a local nursery, they found six trees perfect for campus.  With the location planned and trees picked out, it was time to truck the trees home. Neither rain nor snow will get in the way if it is time to plant.  Wrapped and ready for transport are 2 State Street Maples, 1 Bur Oak and 3 Montmorency Cherry trees.
Joel Serafin with one of the State Street Maples selected for CU

The local nursery wraps and secures the trees for transport
The plastic containers are removed before loading onto the CU truck
Inspection by Joel Serafin confirms that trees are loaded on the truck properly
Heading for a new home at the University of Colorado Boulder campus

Monday, April 13, 2015

Windowless Buildings...

Why are there buildings on campus without windows?  Oh, you haven't seen any like that?  Don't feel bad, they aren't meant to be noticed.  Most are nestled among trees and bushes.  There is one right next to Varsity Lake.  Take a look next time you are standing on the bridge looking North over the lake. If you still can't see it, then the architects have done their job making the pump house blend in with the other Tuscan style buildings on campus (dark red tiled roof, and pink sandstone exterior).
View of Varsity Lake Pump House - Hale Science in background
When you do spot the pump house, your first thought might be, "so what's the big deal?" Don’t let appearances fool you. According to Ryan Heiland, Assistant Manager of the Outdoor Services group and manager of the on campus irrigation team, this building and three other pump houses are the heart of the irrigation system. Without their ability to pump water from their reservoirs, the campus would return to its field flooding methods. Believe me, we don't want that to happen but that is a story for another blog.

Varsity Lake Pump House looking North from the bridge
Pump station inspections are the second step in getting the irrigation system up and running.  Unlike the dormant plants outside, machinery inside the pump houses have continued winter tasks.  Heaters and aeration pumps have been working away.  Now that winter is ending and summer heat is just around the corner, the crews remove insulation from the building vents and put in fans.  
A peek inside 28th St and College Ave Pump House
After the visual inspections, it is time to exercise the pumps.  Now I really sound like I know what I'm talking about...right?  I'm learning!

If the pump monitors pass inspection, it is time for the team to work on getting air out of the lines that has built up over the winter and send water out.  Not so fast....if this isn't done just right, water hammer could rear its ugly head and slow everything down.  What is water hammer?  It's as bad as the name sounds, but never fear, the irrigation team is all over it.  Watch for more on this next week.

Clockwise from top left:  Varsity Lake, 28th & CO Ave., Research Park, Williams Village
In the picture above, you can see the different building styles.  It takes a full month to bring the whole campus irrigation up and running.  The main campus pump houses are the first to come on line but the same process applies to East and South campus pump stations.

Next blog:  "Let the water flow"
Stay tuned.


Friday, April 10, 2015

At a glance

The Conference on World Affairs has been at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus all week.  The sidewalks have been lined with colorful flags representing countries from all over the world.

A grounds team view of the Conference on World Affairs flags
Flags flying proudly are what the outdoor service teams want visitors to notice.  But I'll share a little behind the scenes information that most visitors to campus don't know.  Anything that goes into the ground on campus has to be vetted and approved by a committee.  The maze of gas lines and water lines underground are so complex that placement of ground penetrating anchors are treated very seriously.  Every year, the CWA gets the appropriate approvals so they are good to go.  It's just one more thing the grounds teams monitor so we continue to have a safe campus.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Water...water...where is it?

The University of Colorado Boulder campus has over 50,000 sprinkler heads.  For someone with less than 20 in my yard, this number is staggering.  How do you manage to keep track of every single one of them was my question to Tom Coppens, a member of the Irrigation team.  He helped me see the big picture.  It is not just about the sprinklers, which we see spraying water across the campus; it is what we don’t see that creates the campus irrigation system.  The pieces and parts include:  4 pump houses, 4 water ditches, 3 campus weather stations, 84 irrigation clocks, and miles of irrigation lines.  Oh my!

Varsity Lake awaiting irrigation start up 

Mother Nature sends out indicators to announce her plants are ready to come back from their winter rest but it takes a keen eye to notice.  If temperatures remain above freezing, the turf starts coming out of its dormant stage. It needs water.  Allowing the turf to stress is very bad.
This revelation sent me straight home to take a good look at my own lawn for stress.  Yep, I found it.  My grass was super stressed and begging me for water.  While I was outside examining signs of new growth, I noticed my neighbor adjusting his sprinkler heads.  I may not know Mother Nature as well as the turf guys on campus but one look at my grass told me I better move fast or I might find my lawn creeping next door to receive better care.

Fortunately, the campus has professionals.  Teams and a centralized irrigation system work together to keep the turf, trees and plants healthy and flourishing no matter what time of year it is. 
Communication between antennas and clocks is critical.  No water will be turned on until it can be told where to go.  It’s the first step in firing up the campus irrigation system after its winter shut down.  You may never see the antennas because they are on some of the highest spots on campus but I am sure you have seen the clocks.  Look for green boxes that stand about waist high. 

Tom Coppens checking a clock near Macky Auditorium
The i
nsides of these clocks look like computers.  Encased in a hard plastic, they are designed to handle most types of weather conditions.  But if for any reason there is a communication breakdown, never fear, the clocks will continue implementing the last watering command for up to two weeks. 

Up next:  Windowless Buildings--they are important!
Stay tuned.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Fickle Spring

Fickle Spring

Just when you think Spring is here and Summer is close behind, a snow storm rolls through and shouts, "not so fast!"  But that didn't stop our Redbud near Ramaley from showing its colors while it could.

Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) next to Ramaley 4/1/15
No worries...it even looks beautiful wearing a dusting of white!

Redbud next to Ramaley after snow fall 4/3/15
Just had to share...now back to work!