Current Projects

Current Ground Projects


Instead of performing my normal morning inspection, I headed over to Research One, to remove part of a boulder outcropping landscape, and decide what to do with the removed material. On my way over to the site, I recalled seeing a group of boulders in the construction site for the Roberts Road expansion project.

I flagged down the tractor loader, and large stake body truck,  to collect the stones   and have them dumped at the storage   yard.  We now have a new stockpile of boulders, to use as time and each   particular landscaping situation demands, something I would need later that day. By 7:00   am, at Research One, I inspected the portion of the landscape that had to   be removed, so the contractor installing new ADA compliant walkway and landing, could continue his work unimpeded: the first conifer, two boulders and a group of shrubs.

I decided to use my foreman suggestion, and move the boulders and material to the other side of the existing patio. The tractor backhoe dumped two small boulders, I would use them later, and began to remove a row of shrubs where the boulders were gong to be relocated, but decided to changed the plan, and   had just the three shrubs closest to the street removed. The tractor reset up and began to remove the shrubs and perennials from the other side of the patio. Next the tractor worked the first boulder   loose, carefully maneuvered around on the small patio scooped the boulder into in the bucket, and backed up to the new location and set the boulder.

Meanwhile, I removed the remaining day-lilies so the tractor could repeat the operation with the second boulder. This time, the tractor had an easier time moving the boulder across the patio, placing it up the slope, and setting up to maneuver the boulder into a more stable position. The tractor made a few fine adjustments, to get the boulders to touch, which makes them both more stable (they can only move as a unit, not   individually) and scraping soil behind the boulders to begin   back filling.

After some sedulous inspection, I sent the tractor back to the yard to collect the largest   of the new boulders set it   into place next to thee other two, collect a load of topsoil, and dump the soil as additional back fill. With the   last large boulder set, and topsoil in place, I rolled one of the small boulders the tractor had dumped when it first arrived on   site down the   hill and set the stone in place, in   the gap between the first two boulders.  With that boulder in place   we began to replant some of the shrubs.  The tractor set-up   to push the   first group of shrubs, removed earlier to make space for the boulders, down the   hill to form a larger hedge against the building.

I had my foreman mark   the new location for the conifer, and discussed how I envisioned the other shrubs to be replanted, and left to complete some   administrative tasks. Later, I met Steve back on site to inspect the relocated boulders, conifer and other shrubs, and to make sure the old portion of the original bed had been cleared of material for the contractor’s sidewalk installation. Before leaving to resume work on a project at West Campus, the tractor delivered the last of the topsoil stored in the yard for additional back fill behind the conifer, and scraped another bucket load of soil from the old site. Today we will water all the transplanted material, and tomorrow we   will clean-up and mulch the new boulder outcropping landscape. The   remaining shrubs we removed will be transplanted adjacent to the building entrance.

After completing some administrative duties, a last inspection   shows three   remaining shrubs we will relocate along the building, adjacent to the entrance, to change the shape of that bed to make mowing easier and eliminate some   trimming, the boulders and other   plant material relocated, and the construction site is clear for the installation of the new walkways and landing.

Some of our current projects are listed below.

As part of a developing stewardship approach to maintaining the grounds on campus,the Grounds Shop has eliminated some troublesome areas from the turf program and mowing, by converting them into areas that attract native insects and birds: Bumblebee Havens.

On the east side of the Finley Building, the GMU Grounds Shop in partnership with the Mason LIFE program, are cooperatively developing a combination Butterfly Garden and Bumblebee Haven. Zinnias are the predominate species in this site. Another site at the Lecture Hall has a more diverse collection of species; besides zinnias white and purple coneflowers and the spikes of liatris are in full bloom.

Bumblebee Havens 2
Another site, on the east side of Fenwick Library is currently dominated by  marigolds and zinnias.  In early spring, at the Sandy Creek Garage rain garden site hydrangeas and lupines were in full bloom, with coreopsis (yellow flowers later in spring) beginning to appear. Now, the site may look a bit untidy, as the summer bloomers make their appearance, but is still fulfilling its purpose, as bumblebees are using the zinnias, purple liatris, plus orange butterfly weed, gaillardia and marigolds as food sources.

Bumblebee Havens 3
Although given a different designation, the woodland wildflower buffer area along Patriot Circle at thehandicap ramp from Presidents Park is performing the same function.  Butterflies and moths, bumblebees, and birds (such as golden finches and hummingbirds) have been observed feeding on the flowers (or insects attracted to the blooms) at the site.  Two other sites have been located in student housing areas, and are being maintained with the cooperation of Resident Housing.

Over time, as manpower and budgets allow, the Grounds Shop will add a more diverse blend of perennials to the sites.Please assist us; do not disturb the areas, or the attendant signage. 

As part of a the the Grounds Shop’s in-house storm water management program, the Grounds Shop began another project to protect a storm drain, located between the Johnson Center and the new addition of the Performing Arts Building.

First, several bales of straw, a temporary measure that had prevented runoff from eroding the exposed soil, were removed from an area enclosed by a handicapped railing along the ADA accessible ramp, where the drain is located.

The intent of the landscape alterations was to attempt to capture runoff flowing down the ramp and divert it into a rip-rap bordered channel to the existing drain; the area around the drain was excavated below the level of drain to form a collection basin, and the excavated soil was used to form “islands” that could be landscaped as the final step of the project.

During heavy downpours, when the basin would be filled to capacity, an exit channel was also excavated to take overflow to the bottom of the slope, along a rip-rap bordered channel, and let it exit toward the next drain downhill.

Next the rip-rap channel and the basin, was filled with river Jack stone. With the channel, and collection basin, filled with river stone, a collection of native plants that were adapted to wet soil conditions, several types of ornamental grasses, and a selection of perennials and shrubs.

As a part of the project, two drains along the east side of the new addition had river stone buffers installed around them; the intent of the buffers is to slow the runoff flow and allow for some deposition of silt and other solids before the runoff enters the drains.

Storm Water
To finish the protective measures around the drain, an additional river Jack stone channel was installed along the upper railing to remove runoff from the walkway and channel it toward the rip-rap and river stone channel toward the drain. 

Storm Water 2
A recurring problem, during heavy rains, has been a deep puddle, which forms at the low spot on the walkway from Southside to the Clock Tower; a lot of runoff flows down this sidewalk from the east end of the plaza between the Clock Tower and the George Mason Statue; the underground drainage system at the bottom of the hilldoes not have enough capacity to accept the runoff during torrential storms, and overland flow periodically occurs.
First, swales were installed along the walkway, the grade around each of the drains, on either side of the walkway, was lowered, and collection basins excavated around both drains .

Rip-rap sides were installed around each drain basin, and an overflow channel, confined by rip-rap, excavated down the hillside toward the road; during torrential rains, the two drains (and their four inch drain pipes) cannot accommodate the flow of runoff underground, and overland flow occurs down the slope toward an existing storm water management feature, which has suffered repeated washouts.

With the basins completed, and the channel started, the bottom of the drain basins were tilled and a topsoil and sand mixture added to increase the infiltration, then covered with River Jack, and common river stones, to increase sedimentation and deposition of silts in the basins.
With the drain basins completed, topsoil was spread to make turf repairs around the basins, and along the excavated rip-rap bordered drainage channel; the channel, as it preceded down the hillside, also that covered with River Jack and common river stones. Since overland flow occurs rarely, periodically flat rip-rap stones were used to create waterfalls for aesthetic interest along the channel during dry periods. This work was repeated down the length of the channel until it joined an existing bed along the fire lane.

This bed, damaged by a washout during past torrential downpour, was altered to accept the occasional flow of runoff down the hillside channel; two boulders were set farther apart, for the channel to flow between, and a check dam of river Jack stone installed between them, where the channel exited into the roadway.
The existing crepe myrtles were removed, and installed elsewhere nearby, and replaced with river birches, a species more tolerant of wet conditions; a few native grasses where also installed along the channel banks, and the area will be seeded with wildflowers next spring.

To complete the renovation, at the protected drain at the bottom of the fire lane, the small river stones (which had washed out during torrential storms) were removed and an additional check dam of larger river Jack stones installed.

Thus far, during typical rainfall sevents, water is not puddling on the sidewalk from Southside to the top of the hill, and is flowing much faster into the drainage basins, where it infiltrates and drops silt, before flowing into the underground drainage system. 

The buffer areas around the few remaining wooded areas on South Campus, are woodland wildflower areas to eliminate mowing against the woodlands, including trimming and protect the woodlands. It has taken a while, but the sown seeds are beginning to germinate, and the first wildflower has appeared, a blue bachelor button.  We checked the nearby beds and spot-seeded bare areas, where the seed has probably been washed away by the rains). The Grounds Shop is using marigolds, since we are confident of a high  and quick germination rate with that species, to take advantage of the May thunderstorms.
To give you an idea of what I hope the areas become over time….The Grounds Shop inspected the beds along the road at the Northeast Modules; we did not want to try and hold these steep and narrow slopes along the steps and parking lot with a mower (and throw debris into the roadway), so we stabilized the slopes with rip-rap (like a stable rock slide slope) leaving soil pockets.  Instead of seed, we chose a selection of flowering peren- nials daylilies, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans (flower buds are evident in front of the yellow daylilies) orange gaillardia, a pink geranium, yellow coreopsis and white chrysanthemum in the background; there are other flowering perennials (i.e. the purple salvia by the truck has already bloomed, and may bloom again).  installed along the slope.
We seeded the bare areas with marigolds, and since a close inspection showed the area was serving its purpose and a bumblebee had found this food source/habitat we installed a sign to try and protect the area.

We ask the University community and visitors, to please respect the signs, and allow these areas to develop naturally.