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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
Tour guide Bill Price leads guests through the 4-H Children's Garden as he explains methods used to care for the gardens.

Tour guide Bill Price leads guests through the 4-H Children's Garden as he explains methods used to care for the gardens.

Looking at the landscape


Aug. 31, 2011

Grounds management professionals from across the nation converged on MSU’s campus July 28 and 29 to learn about the technology and cutting-edge techniques that the University uses to maintain its campus.

The Professional Grounds Management Society held its 2011Regional Seminar and Site Visit at MSU. It was one of the regional conferences meant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization. The seminar included a variety of talks, discussion panels, and tours by experts from MSU and across the state of Michigan.

Gerry Dobbs, Landscape Services manager at the Physical Plant*, said that he was excited about the number of different companies and universities attending. Dobbs commented, “We picked up several different presenters with different areas of expertise,” to discuss what they know best.

Dobbs, also a PGMS board member, said, “It is quite an honor to have the conference hosted here. People are surprised at the topics and they like our facilities.”

As a northern campus, Michigan State faces challenges in grounds management that other parts of the nation have not seen. Dobbs noted that people from the south wanted to learn about techniques in snow removal to be prepared for surprise snowfall. Aspects of this challenge were covered in discussions about salt brine production, snow and ice response equipment, and general winter challenges.

The Landscape Services department has also been on the front lines of developing technology that can monitor and manage a 5,200-acre campus. MSU made some astounding innovations in the realm of campus mapping. MSU staff won an award for employing Munsys, a software system designed for other purposes, to map campus grounds. Using the software, employees can harvest specific campus data like how many square miles of mulched gardens there are, when specific trees were planted or when specific areas of sidewalk were replaced. The technology enables employees to predict exactly when a piece of campus will need maintenance or repair.

Dobbs said that the most important aspect of the conference is “developing a partnership” that allows all of the grounds management professionals to do their jobs the best they can. “This conference is good for MSU because we’re able to share what we know, but we also gain knowledge and experience from other entities.”

July/August 2011

*Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.

Sessions taught by Landscape Services

Mapping the campus:

  • Adam Kingsbury, planner/inspector/analyst I
  • Brian Keesey, planner/inspector/analyst I
  • Nick Voss, GIS and map coordinator

Tree talk: tree protection, emerald ash borer, and oak leaf scorch

  • Paul Swartz, Landscape Services coordinator

Snow and ice challenges discussion panel

  • Bill Ratliff, Landscape Services coordinator (as well as guests from U of M and Grand Valley State University)

Snow and ice response equipment

  • Adam Lawver, landscape architect II/supervisor
  • Jay Andrews, nursery technician

Accubrine system for making salt brine

  • Roger Thelen, Landscape Services coordinator

'Grounds proofing' landscape maintenance equipment

  • Doug Aves, grounds equipment mechanic II
  • Dan Thompson, grounds equipment mechanic I
  • Tom Reeves, grounds equipment mechanic II

Using online tutorials about plant, weed, and pest identification to educate front-line staff

  • Fred Kester, Landscape Services coordinator