Managing an extensive system

Photos Courtesy of the Parks Department of the City of Grand Island.

Grand Island is the fourth largest city in Nebraska with a population of approximately 43,000. Located in the center of the state, its extensive park system offers recreational activities not only for its residents, but also for the rural communities that surround it. Gregg Bostelman has been park superintendent for the city for 15 years. He’s in charge of the 400 acres within the park system, including the lakes, parking lots, walkways and paths, and the structures, as well as the trees, shrubs, flowerbeds and turf.

The system encompasses eight major parks and many small, neighborhood parks about the size of two residential lots. There’s also a skate park, swimming pool and water park with multiple features. The park department also maintains the landscaping and turf within the boulevards on the city’s streets.

This overview of the Island Oasis Water Park shows the many features that attract residents from Grand Island and surrounding communities.

Equipment lineup

So much green space requires an arsenal of maintenance equipment. Grand Island’s mower lineup includes: 10 72-inch rotary mowers and two 10.5-foot rotary mowers for general park turf; two older reel mowers for mowing the expanse of soccer fields; and a triplex reel mower for the turf infields. There are eight utility vehicles that are used for multiple tasks throughout the parks. These have an assortment of ballfield drags for grooming the softball and baseball skinned areas. The 72-inch rotary mowers are equipped with cabs and snowblowers in the winter for snow removal. Parks maintenance has three tractors ranging in size from 20 to 45 hp that are fitted with attachments as needed, and there is also an aerial bucket truck for tree work, a stump cutter and a tree chipper to turn trimmings into mulch.

Bostelman says, “We have one topdresser that is 6 feet wide. We have a 6-foot, pull-behind, drum aerifier with the open tines that we use with one of the tractors on the soccer field complex. We also have a 6-foot Aerway with slicing spikes.”

Parks maintenance has two walk-behind painters used for lining the soccer fields and marking the foul lines on the baseball and softball fields, as well as one big fertilizer spreader that is attached to the three-point hitch and pulled behind one of the tractors. They also use a large walk-behind spreader for granular applications on the baseball infield turf and the areas within the parks where multiple sidewalks intersect the turf.

This sand volleyball game is one of the multiple activities that draw crowds to the Island Oasis Water Park. The John Brownell Beltline Trail starts at the parks department’s maintenance building. Mower operators work their way along the trail to some of the city’s parks and back again in preset routes.

“All of our weed, insect and disease control follows standard IPM procedures, with control products used only as needed and on the smallest possible areas. We usually try to use a combination of preemergent and granular fertilizer on our athletic fields to save the time of a second application. All of our sports fields are irrigated, so we can water it in.

“We do have a large sprayer that fits on the back of a utility vehicle that we use when larger areas require spraying, but most of our control products are applied as spot treatments in small areas. We have six hand sprayers for these applications. The majority of our weed control is postemergent and generally only spot treatment is needed. We’ve found a combination of Roundup with a preemergent provides both immediate and long-term control for spot spraying around playgrounds, sidewalks and under bleachers.”

Resource allocation

Most of the maintenance equipment is stored at one main site and approximately 90 percent of the staff works out of that location. There are four additional remote sites with equipment and personnel assigned there on a seasonal basis.

“We’ve increased our efficiency by having the majority of our full-time staff focusing on specific areas of responsibility. We also cross train, so we have backup personnel that can assist in the various areas, or fill in temporarily if necessary. To cover the broad scope of parks maintenance, I’ve divided the city into four quarters. The seasonal personnel may work with some of our task specialists regularly or on special projects. The rest of our crews are assigned to one of the quarters. Our bike trail system starts at our shop location, so it’s really easy for the mower operators to head out on that. They work their way out and work their way back in. Our other mower operators drive down the streets, mowing the boulevards as they go to the different park sites, and mowing their way back,” Bostleman says.

Staff members work on prepping the homeplate area as players from one of the teamsparticipating in the 2007 tournament warmup on the turf. The Ryder Park field serves as thegame field for the local high schooland American Legion teams.

“Ninety-nine percent of our turf is a blend of Kentucky bluegrass varieties. It does very well here, both on the irrigated athletic fields and the few other areas of our parks that are irrigated and in the nonirrigated park space. When we develop a new park or athletic field we’ll spec out the varieties that are best suited for each site. We also vary the blend in our overseeding, working in the newer cultivars that stand up well to wear and our fluctuating weather conditions. We mow the general turf in the open park areas at about 3 inches. We keep the soccer fields and the baseball and softball outfields at 1.75 inches. The infield turf areas are cut at about 1.5 inches, using the reel mowers.”

To contact the author, e-mail stevetrusty@sportsfieldmanagementmagazine.com.