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Miami groundskeepers preserve campus safety and scenery year-round

By Maggie Callaghan, For The Miami Student

Brian Nixon begins his day like any other. The groundskeeper, who has been working for Miami University for over a year, arrives early at 6 a.m. to pick up trash, refill trash cans and clear the grounds around the Armstrong Student Center.

"A lot of this job is self-pride," said Nixon.

Nixon, in his mid 40s, is one of 35 employees who works tirelessly throughout the year to keep Miami's campus well-groomed.

According to Miami University's Physical Facilities website, it aims "to develop, operate and maintain a safe campus that is sustainable, attractive, functional and efficient." This can be a daunting task during their busier times of year, like autumn, when leaves begin to fall.

"We want the campus to have a park-like setting. When you drive up, you know you have arrived on campus," said Jeremy Davis, the director of buildings and facilities.

One way groundskeeping has become more sustainable and functional is through its leaf pick-up system. Davis said all leaf collection piles are placed in a large compost pile behind the equestrian center that is then recycled into mulch and used during the spring and summer time.

Groundskeepers are also encouraged to be cautious of their carbon footprint by driving around campus, which, in turn, has made everyone's job more efficient, Davis said.

However, the groundskeepers' main priority is student safety. Nixon said the groundskeepers will sometimes work overtime, coming in at 2 a.m. when they know a snow storm is approaching and need to salt the ground or remove snow.

In times of rough weather, Davis said, the groundskeepers work to return the campus to its normal state before students and faculty even wake up.

In order to ensure every acre of campus is covered, each of the 35 groundkeepers is assigned to a specific area that he or she must maintain. For example, Nixon is responsible for upkeep around Armstrong, as well as Shideler, Kreger and Culler Halls.

Davis said he and other directors walk around campus to ensure each groundkeeper is working up to their standards.

"When somebody walks by, I want them to say, 'That looks good,'" Nixon said.

But, the groundkeepers are responsible for more than just picking up trash and leaves on campus. The groundkeepers help set up for athletic events on the weekends, remove all snow in parking lots and sidewalks, design new landscape, as well as plant and maintain memorial trees or gardens.

This is a huge task, as they must cover the 2000 acres of land, 32 miles of walkway and 76 acres of parking lots around campus.

Although they have many responsibilities, the groundskeepers cut no corners, and many outsiders recognize that.

"There's a reason we are always ranked as having one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and a lot of that is because of the hard work of the groundskeepers," said sophomore Chelsea Rosenberg. "I wish they got more recognition from the students."

However, on such a large campus with extensive greenery, land and student traffic, it is a difficult task to cover all of campus.

"The scale and traffic is tenfold of what [a student] might see at home," Davis said.

One way that students can help make campus cleaner and more attractive is by using the trash cans appropriately. If students could make sure to always throw their trash away, especially when they eat outside, then that would help keep campus cleaner, explained Nixon

Although their job can be physically and mentally challenging, the groundkeepers are very proud of their work - and have a good time doing it.

"I enjoy it," Nixon said. "I like to be outside … some may argue with me on this, but it's the only job at Miami where you can get an instant satisfaction."