Lawn Access and Improvements Continue through FY19

The Mathematics lawn during spring, with no leaves on the large sycamore tree, and a flowering cherry blossom tree in bloom, with students sitting on the grass by the trees.

Over the course of Fiscal Year 2019, the Grounds team has continued to make several upgrades and improvements to lawns across the Morningside campus, while also keeping lawns open and available as often as possible.

Throughout the year, the Columbia community saw green flags flying on the lower campus lawns. The Grounds team, part of Campus Operations, continued its concerted effort that began in 2017 to make the lawns available for passive recreational use as often as conditions allowed. October 2018 exhibited that point, with four green flags flying every day of the month except the three days that experienced heavy rainfall. The flag system is in use for South Lawns East and West, and Hamilton and Furnald lawns.

    In addition to its efforts to keep lawns open and available, the Grounds team made several improvements at lawns all around campus to encourage more use:

    • Uris: Two new lawns were created in front of Uris, designed to mirror the existing lawn in front of the building.
    • Earl Hall: Perimeter shrubs were reduced around the lawns near Earl Hall Gate and Earl Hall's entrance to increase access.
    • Philosophy/Kent: Following the improvements made in FY18 to enlarge the lawn area, three new benches were added in front of Philosophy Hall along the lawn.
    • Mathematics: Perimeter shrubs were reduced to widen walkways and increase access points. In addition, the trunk of a historic sycamore tree had expanded into the walkway, and Campus Operations staff redirected the path around it.
    • St. Paul’s Chapel: Perimeter shrubs around the lawns in front were removed to create more open and welcoming lawn spaces and building entrances.
    • South Lawns East and West: Grounds team installed new drainage systems on the southern portion of the lawn to speed up recovery time following heavy rain.
    Philosophy lawn, with trees and The Thinker statue, with students sitting on three concrete benches along Philosophy Hall.

    Other changes to increase lawn access continue into the winter months.  Last year, the Grounds team did not use turf blankets and kept Butler Lawn and the South Field East and West Lawns uncovered and available for use through the winter. 

    “South Lawns East and West and Butler Lawn are unique among green spaces on campus in that the extreme stress placed on them during Commencement Week activities require that they are re-sodded in the summer,” explained Brad Larson, grounds manager. “The grass on other lawns reap the blankets’ lifelong health benefits, but since these three lawns are re-sodded each year, the benefits are more limited, especially when weighed with the labor required to lay down the blankets.”

    Students playing football on the South Field Lawn during January

    In Fiscal Year 2020, South Lawns East and West will continue to remain open throughout the winter, regulated by the same flag system based on weather conditions.  In addition, all other campus green spaces will be open and available to the Columbia community throughout the winter months with the exception of Hamilton, Furnald and three select upper campus lawns – specific to their individual maintenance needs – which will be covered by translucent turf blankets.