Goshen College’s 135 acre campus is filled with courtyards, sidewalks, athletic fields and over a dozen buildings. The quick but often silent engine that keeps it all up and running is Physical Plant.The department has a wide range of duties, including wiring, plumbing, cleaning, painting and consists of four different areas: general maintenance, custodial, systems and grounds. These four areas bring a lot of responsibilities, so they rarely struggle to keep busy.
This is especially true for grounds, which is naturally the department most affected by changes in season. Not only do they have different tasks during different times of the year, such as trees falling down during summer thunderstorms and winter weather coating the paths and sidewalks in ice, but the department also completely shifts gears drastically depending on the weather.
One of the jobs the department has is to upkeep and maintain cleanliness of all greenery on campus. This includes mowing, trimming shrubbery, planting flowers, trash pickup and various other tasks. The department works year-round, but according to grounds supervisor Craig Johnson, “most of our work takes place during the summertime.”
Outside of general upkeep, Grounds is also in charge of many projects that take place over the summer. Some common projects are repainting buildings, repaving parking lots, installing new features on campus and assisting in the relocation of furniture.
Aside from the weather problems that winter creates, saving all of the major projects for the summer also allows them to hire a lot of student workers due to there being less conflict with class schedules. “We can have students for longer,” Johnson said. “We can have them all day.”
The crux of grounds’ work comes a few weeks before new and returning students arrive on campus in late August. Directory signs get installed all over campus, the lawns get a manicure of a lifetime and colorful flowers of all types are planted across campus. These preparations set the tone for the day-to-day tasks as the campus is at its freshest and most colorful.
As the year continues and the seasons start to change, so do the daily duties. Workers begin to focus on keeping sidewalks and entrances free of the brightly colored falling leaves and tulip bulbs are planted for springtime. These are minor changes compared to the changes during the colder months of the semester.
As winter approaches, the grounds department dusts off all of its winter equipment and warm clothing. Snow blowers come out, shovels are waxed and the workers layer as if they’re going on a trip to the arctic. According to groundskeeper Larry Lewallen, the winter crew shrinks down to just one full-time worker and three part-time workers.
Hannah Guthrie, a student grounds worker, said, “winter is a lot of preparation for summer. It’s much more routine … In the summer we have more variety.”
Despite the constantly shifting focus, Lewallen said, “You have no stress … you just go out and do the job. It’s very relaxing [and] I would say this is a passion.”