Oct. 25 2019 09:50 AM

The university was recognized for its sustainability efforts and focus on safety.

Photo: UAFS

The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus was recognized by the Professional Grounds Management Society, Forest Hill, Maryland, as one of the Grand Award winners in the organization’s 2019 Green Star competition. UAFS shared the top honor with Denison University, the University of Nevada at Reno, Oklahoma State University and the University of Maryland. Winners were honored during the organization’s 2019 Awards Dinner in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Green Star Awards program brings national recognition to grounds maintained with a high degree of excellence. Overall, PGMS presented six Grand Awards, its highest honor, as well as 14 Honor Awards and four Merit Awards in nine categories of competition.

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, but a greater honor still to win such accolades,” says Matt Rich, grounds manager for UAFS and its contracted lawn service company, Southeast Service Corp. “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. 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.

Over the past year, the UAFS team has implemented several sustainability practices that judges congratulated, including increased planting of trees, the use of smart irrigation to reduce water use, 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.

Rich says the grounds team has plans to innovate and renovate the campus so students can interact with the landscape and enjoy their surroundings as they learn. They also will continue to increase efforts toward sustainable practices and environmentally-friendly gardening.

To view a complete list of winners, please visit the PGMS website.