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Keeping Kent State’s Sidewalks Snow Free

Posted Mar. 3, 2014
enter photo description
A Kent State University groundskeeper
clears away snow from a Kent Campus
sidewalk. During winter, the Grounds
Crew keeps 22 miles of campus sidewalk
snow-free.

With a winter filled with multiple campus closings due to snowfall, low temperatures and gusting winds, Kent State University’s Grounds Crew has been hard at work to keep the Kent Campus sidewalks clear for the campus community.  There are 22 miles of sidewalk on campus, and keeping them snow free is not easy.

“We have 20 groundskeepers and 10 equipment operators to clear 22 miles of sidewalk,” says Heather White, grounds manager at Kent State. “We do have plows out there, but there also are all of the handicap ramps, stairways, doorways and small walks where the plows can’t get to. It’s a Herculean task sometimes.”

During a typical winter, 1,200 tons of rock salt is used across campus.

The sometimes-daunting task is managed by a team of groundskeepers, equipment operators and supervisors headed by White. The team carries the responsibility of caring for the entire surface area of campus. To complete their wintry task, the grounds department has access to 14 truck and tractor snowplows, as well as numerous snow blowers.

White has been working as grounds manager for 10 years and recalls winters that have required more snow removal. However, that does not mean that this season has not been tough.

“I think the biggest difference with this winter in recent memory is the cold,” says White. “That limits the effectiveness of rock salt because rock salt essentially doesn’t work when the temperature is less than 17 degrees.”

Despite the setbacks from the cold, White and her team work constantly to keep the campus safe. Workers are provided with the best outerwear to keep them warm and are allotted extra break time if conditions call for freezing temperatures. 

“I get a lot of help. I have terrific people. It is very much a collaborative effort with the grounds keeping supervisors who report to me. If we’re expecting a 10-inch snow, we are all meeting and talking about it,” she says.

“This position is energizing,” says White. “There is something inherently fun with rising to the challenge. Mother Nature throws down five inches, and we’re set. Bring it on. That is often the attitude of the Grounds Department”

With a month or so of winter remaining, the Grounds Crew is looking forward to spring, says White, when focus can be shifted from plowing snow to beautifying the campus.

For more information about the Grounds Crew, visit www.kent.edu/ufm/grounds/index.cfm.