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Water well spent

By Mandy Cook

Although it may appear that St. John’s campus groundskeepers are defying the current municipal water ban by hosing down the Human Kinetics and Recreation field, Memorial’s horticulturist Chris Baird said he has jumped through “all the hoops” to get the go-ahead from City Hall.

“With the water ban we had to get permission from city council to allow us to water the field,” he said. “We had to register to do that. It’s in the record registry with the City of St. John’s that Memorial is allowed to water for 60 days.”

While Mr. Baird said that the grounds staff try and do their part by limiting the amount of watering on campus lawns and flower beds, the HKR field is an extra challenge to maintain because of its solitary status as the only playing surface currently in use.

Paton Field, adjacent to Burton’s Pond, is to be the site of a new residence building and is under construction. The former Canada Games field next to the Aquarena is now used for parking.

Consequently, the HKR field sees a high volume of regular traffic with varsity team practice, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation training and summer camp activities.

“The Phys Ed field, or what used to be called the field hockey pitch, gets so much use that it deteriorates terribly because it never gets a rest,” said Mr. Baird. “Particularly where the goals are, it’s not like another soccer field where you can move the goals because it’s confined, it’s not even a regulation size so the areas in front of the goals are terribly, terribly worn.”

This year, Mr. Baird and his staff are replacing large chunks of sod on both ends of the field which will require the extra watering. Top-dressing will help fill holes in the turf, and extra seeding will be applied as well.

In addition to the challenge of upgrading a field that is in almost constant use, Mr. Baird is also contending with a low number of seasonal help. During the high months of summer, 23 student positions are up for grabs to help with planting, watering, seeding and maintenance. This year, there are only eight students on the job. As well, the water ban complicates things further, with some thirsty annual beds getting a drink from water piped in from Burton’s Pond.

“And if push comes to shove, we’ll have to go to the pond by the Health Sciences Centre,” said Mr. Baird. “Hopefully we’ll get some rain soon.”

The Facilities Management watering permit for the HKR field will last until mid-August.