While the South Mall grass is always greener this time of year thanks to an annual regrassing, students will not get to enjoy lounging on the lawn for a few weeks.
The lawn in the Six Pack will remain taped off from the public until a week before commencement, said Facilities Services manager John Burns. Burns said the lawn will be closed again in order to repair the grass after commencement, but will be mostly open for the rest of the summer and the fall.
The lawn has been taped off since last Thursday, when the lawn was regrassed. Burns said the regrassing cost about $1,300, and the main goal now is to get the grass’s roots established before commencement, otherwise the grass may not recover.
“If we can get it established before we get too many people going on it and laying on it and playing Frisbee, it will recover more quickly after the heavy usage,” Burns said.
Burns said commencement takes a heavy toll on the lawn. Since Facilities Services cannot water the lawn a week before commencement, Burns said the lawn is in a rough state when so many people turn up.
“Its really hard on the grass to go through having thousands of people walking across it while its not in tip-top shape watering wise,” Burns said. “We have to get it established and get it as healthy as it can so it will be able to recover after commencement and then be nice for summer and at least the fall semester.”
Burns said different kinds of grasses have fared differently at the South Mall. For example, Burns said St. Augustine grass, which they used several years ago, did not recover well after commencement. This year Facilities Services is trying Discovery Bermuda, a type of grass that is new to the South Mall lawn.
“We tried it in some other places on the campus and it’s really been successful, and so we thought we would try it in this larger area,” Burns said. “It doesn’t grow as tall, so it saves maintenance time. It’s also a little bit shade tolerant and there is a lot of shade on the South Mall.”
After commencement, Services and Facilities will continue to work on the lawn in order to keep it healthy and try to prolong its life as long as possible, but Burns said the lawn is usually bare dirt by spring due to extreme use. Burns said this can lead to environmental problems, as rainfall can cause dirt to wash down onto the sidewalk and into the storm drains.
“Our goal is to get grass on there not just for beauty, but also to protect our storm drains and storm water,” Burns said. “Our goal is to not have dirt washing down into the storm drains and the creeks.”
Assistant dean of students Mary Beth Mercatoris said since the first day of school in the fall, there have been 80 events held on the South Mall lawn. She said the lawn captures everything someone would want for an event.
“It’s beautiful, it’s well kept up, it’s in the iconic location of campus where you can see academic buildings, statues and the Main Building,” Mercatoris said. “So I think it has a mix of what students would look for when they’re looking for a really great location.”
Mercatoris said she thought the open space of the lawn was a big factor of what attracted students and gave it unlimited possibilities.
“You just name it, and there are tons of things happening out there,” Mercatoris said. “It has the ability to be transformed to accommodate a lot of different kinds of events.”
Government and history freshman Brittany Bradshaw said she enjoys going onto the South Mall because it is so open. And while she is frustrated that she cannot get on the grass, she said she understands why.
“I think for it to be returfed and redone, it just makes it look nicer,” Bradshaw said. “It completes the view.”