Landscape Services: The team behind keeping UT looking good

Brianna Stone

With spring in full bloom and commencement right around the corner, the University has been working to keep the campus looking its best. One of the major faces behind the appearance of UT is the Landscape Services Team, a group of staff members responsible for maintaining 900 acres of land.

Landscape Services, a faction of Facilities Services, is a team of 79 members that manages the main campus, Dell Medical Center, J.J. Pickle Research Campus and other satellite facilities. Though its behind-the-scenes work is often unseen, this staff plays a major role in the appearance and functionality of campus.

“The landscape is the first thing you see when you come to campus,” said Landscape Services manager Jim Carse. “Whether you’re a student, faculty, staff or visitor, the first thing you see is the grounds, the landscape, the exterior of buildings. That’s the first impression.”

Carse said his team is responsible for mowing, trimming, trash pick-up, tree work, pest control and irrigation, and they play a major role in the construction of new buildings and how they fit into the landscape. Carse said his staff also picks up trash at every home football game to ensure the campus stays
looking nice.

“We feel like we have a pretty big responsibility to keep up (the appearance of campus),” Carse said. “We serve a vital function on campus over a lot of different areas.”

To maintain the staff, Carse estimated its annual budget is around $3 million, which comes from the overall Facilities Services budget.

Justin Hayes, UT Dell Medical District landscape supervisor, said sustainability is a major focus of his team.

“We use all native plants and organic materials,” Hayes said. “We do a lot of composting and make our own compost from ingredients on campus. We have dramatically reduced water usage.”

Hayes said the team’s hard work paid off last year when they received a SITES gold award, the highest rated landscape award in Texas for sustainability.

The Dell Medical District is unique in that it has a rooftop garden that is seven stories from the ground. In addition to work around the Dell Medical School, Hayes said his team does a lot of creek restoration work throughout campus.

Landscape architect Lisa Lennon said Landscape Services often solves environmental and campus issues through natural solutions.

“There was a huge slope by the football stadium along a handicap ramp, and every time it rained, there would be mud on the ramp and it would have to be closed,” Lennon said. “Last summer we used native grasses and turf grass to hold the soil in place so that dirt and rocks didn’t wash onto the ramp when it rained. It was less expensive than building a wall (to hold back wash off).”

Lennon said her team has also solved other flooding and drainage issues around campus using plants.

“We like to solve problems using natural materials,” Lennon said. “We try to find plants that serve environmental purposes but that will also look good. We try to use one solution to cover those bases so it’s more sustainable.”

Lennon said there is always room for improvement on campus, and her team plans to spruce up plant beds along Guadalupe Street and begin projects outside the Performing Arts Center and School of Public Affairs in the near future.