What are the responsibilities of the Grounds and Automotive Department?

The Grounds and Automotive Department is responsible for campus-wide landscape maintenance; sports field maintenance; irrigation renovation, maintenance, and repair; solid waste management; hazardous weather condition response; and maintenance of campus vehicles.


What projects has the Grounds and Automotive Department been a part of recently?

After taking special care to protect the Giant Sequoia before and during construction, the Grounds Department was able to move and save several large plants to be reused in other locations on campus. We added new plantings around the sitting wall, new planter beds by Wheelock, and 7 new self-watering pots on the new patio for seasonal annual color.

After removing the dead and dying Memorial Cherry Trees that ran along the old walks of the Wheelock patio for construction, members of the grounds staff handpicked new Cherry trees to be dug and delivered in the fall for proper planting time. A drier location closer to the end of Howarth was chosen and the campus community is looking forward to their first blooms this spring.

The new lawn area in front of Weyerhaeuser Hall and a volunteer project with Metro Park’s at Point Defiance rounded out the year.


Last year for Arbor Day, we planted with the Sustainability team a Vanderwolf Pine along with Thomas Hall. We are also going for our 5th year of recognition as a Tree Campus USA campus by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

For the 5th year, we will be fertilizing the campus with an all-organic fertilizer for the summer feeding that also helps build healthy soil. We are continuing to update and improve our irrigation systems including the addition, for the first time, soil moisture meters in the ground. In the next several weeks we will plant just over a thousand annuals and will start making landscape changes to the stairs of Jones hall.

We were able to make some major repairs to several University vehicles and equipment in House, saving the University a substantial amount of money compared to if we had sent them out to be repaired.

We also are now able to use our own equipment to haul fuel to fill emergency generators instead of having a fuel truck drive down paths and walks.

By working with other departments, we at facilities help identify vehicles and equipment that need to be replaced and also help research the best options for replacement.

How do the Grounds and Automotive Department incorporate sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices into its work?

The Grounds and Automotive Department is constantly looking to improve campus sustainability as it relates to landscaping, irrigation, and campus-owned vehicles.


  • Uses grass and plant varieties on campus that are more resistant to drought and insects and which do not need heavy use of fertilizers to survive;
  • Is now using low-emission backpack blowers;
  • Uses low VOC athletic paint on athletic fields;
  • Donated the clay from the baseball field renovation to the Tacoma School District for their baseball fields;
  • Uses nutrient-based soil samples to ensure the correct usage of fertilizer on campus;
  • Makes and uses woodchips from plants on campus;
  • And uses mulch to cut down on herbicide use.


  • Grounds do routine irrigation audits to make sure there are no breaks or leaks that would cause inefficient water usage.


  • On the automotive side, the Department stays up on vehicle maintenance and recycles automotive fluids to be more sustainable.

Interested in learning more about the Grounds and Automotive Department, its responsibilities, its current or future projects, or how to get involved with the Department? Contact the Grounds Manager.