By Robert Lucke
Corey Cook takes a lot of pride in what he does. What he does is make sure that all 105 acres of MSU-Northern look their Sunday best at all times.
This summer that job has been particularly difficult due to major parts of the campus being torn up since early spring. And yet a drive through the campus shows that this year is no different from most. The campus is beautiful, green and manicured.
Cook, whose job title is head groundskeeper, has a crew out daily, winter and summer.
In the wintertime, Cooks crew consists of four students whose main job is to keep the snow shoveled and alleviate icy conditions.
When there is a snow in the wintertime, the security people call me around 3 a.m. and I get a crew up and shoveling by 5 a.m., Cook said. We need to have everything shoveled by the time school starts at 8 a.m., and lots of times it is snowing and blowing so hard that it looks like we have not even been there at all, but we have.
Winter brings nightmares for Cook.
My worst nightmare is the ice. In the wintertime we just have to make sure that people arent going to slip and fall, Cook continued. We chop and salt it and sand it. Ice is a chore.
In the summer, Cooks crew increases to seven full-time students and two part-timers. Students are, as a rule, those who attend MSU-Northern.
Of the 105 acres that comprise the campus, around 65 have to be kept watered and mowed.
Keeping the lawns green, that is the hardest part of this job, Cook said. There is so much to water and we have such limited resources in getting water to many places.
Northern budget crunches dont help either in a job that is very labor intensive.
Most of the time we have to change the water around the campus every two hours, Cook said. This year I have one guy and one gal who just go around and pull hoses. And the girl who works in the morning is in charge of watering all the flowers once a day, too.
There are some parts of the old prairie environment campus that are just plain hard to make look good.
Sled-riding hill and the flat below it are very difficult to keep green, Cook said. Some grass grows green and nice and then there are brown patches right next to the green grass.
Add to that the fact that the bottom below sled-riding hill takes a full six nights of watering to green it up at all, it really takes work and dedication to make that part of the campus look good.
And there is a limited watering system for watering various parts of the campus.
You take one system that is watered out of Kuhr Pond, areas of Morgan Hall lawns, East Hall, sled-riding hill and the flat, some of the Auto Mech area, the SUB island and the front of Pershing Hall are all watered from two small pumps coming from that system, Cook said.
Still though, there are definite spots that Cook is proud of.
Actually, Kuhr Park is one of the better lawns, Cook said. The trees are growing up and providing shady spots. The grass is thick and there is an underground sprinkling system. That helps. It is very beautiful there. Really though, there are lots of beautiful areas. Even East Hill looks good, and it is very beautiful down by the SUB this summer.
In addition to ground maintenance, Cooks crew keeps tab on campus wildlife which has included nesting ducks, rabbits, skunks, a garter snake, and deer at various times.
Cook, whose major is in business administration, has about finished his bachelors degree. He may and may not stay around working on grounds after that, but he is quick to point out that credit for the beautiful campus is much more than his.
I couldnt do anything except what one person could do. Those students are out there busting their tails getting things done, Cook said. That is the big key to making the campus look good. Students who are willing to work, and you know they have great pride in MSU-Northern and they do a good job.
And the grounds crew does that job each year with less and less money.
A couple of years ago, we had 11 or 12 students working on the lawns, Cook said. But we had to do our part, too. We should be landscaping and doing lots more, but we are just managing to get done what we have to do in the time we have to do it. We are trying to do with what weve got.