The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith campus has earned an esteemed accolade for its pristine landscaping and grounds management.
The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) has recognized UAFS with the Grand Award in the organization’s 2019 Green Star competition. UAFS shared the organization’s top honor with The University of Nevada at Reno, Oklahoma State University, and The University of Maryland, besting hundreds of campuses across the country for the award. Winners were honored during the Society’s 2019 Awards Dinner in Louisville, Ky.
The 13 grounds employees at UAFS maintain more than 168 acres in Fort Smith and help preserve the historic gardens and lawns at the Wilahuf and Drennen-Scott sites in Van Buren.
“It is a great honor to compete,” said Matt Rich, grounds manager for UAFS and its contracted lawn service company Southeast Service Corp., “But a greater honor still to win such accolades. Out of all the beautiful campuses in the United States, the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith is a gem that shines above the others.”
“Our team is dedicated to making this campus an exceptional place to be,” Rich continued. “They work hard each and every day, and I am so proud they have been rewarded for their efforts.”
Though the award acknowledges excellence, Rich said the grounds team plans to continue improving, from finding new ways to beautify the campus, to increasing efforts toward sustainable practices and environmentally-friendly gardening.
“There are many plans to innovate and renovate our campus so the students can interact with the landscape and enjoy their surroundings as they learn. We are all excited and proud to bring this award home, and hopefully, earn more in the future.”
The Green Star Awards program brings national recognition to grounds maintained with a high degree of excellence, complimenting other national landscape award programs that recognize outstanding landscape design and construction. Overall, PGMS presented six Grand Awards, its highest honor, as well as 14 Honor Awards and four Merit Awards in nine categories of competition.
In a detailed Judges’ Statement and analysis, the panel of judges noted that UAFS showed, “meticulously maintained landscape beds, clean, neat appearance, and well-maintained campus,” and emphasized the diversity of plants, both in type and hue as an asset.
Over the past year, the UAFS team has also implemented several sustainability practices that judges congratulated. “Emphasis on irrigating sustainably seems to have come a long way,” said the judges’ report, “and their collaboration efforts reach across departments on campus.” Increased planting of trees, the use of smart-irrigation to reduce water, and using natural techniques to reduce chemical use were also noted as innovative sustainable practices.
In another field, SSC was commended for top-tier safety practices, from implementing safety gear such as high-visibility vests, and hearing, head and hand protection, to the fact that every member of the staff is CPR and First Aid certified. “Safety is clearly emphasized within the department, and safe practices are executed by the staff,” said the judges.
To view a complete list of winners, please visit https://pgms.org/2019-green-star-award-winners/