Flexible mowing equipment cuts it in Toledo
Toledo, Ohio, a city of 300,000, prides itself on the beauty of its parks and tree-lined boulevards. Maintaining that tradition as one of America’s most beautifully manicured cities is a year-round task that falls to Mike Young, parks field operations officer and his staff.
“In Ohio, there are four very distinct seasons, all of which keep us busy,” Young says. “In spring, the nature of our beast is that the grass will get away from us very quickly because our cool-season grasses — fescues, rye and bluegrasses — put out about two-thirds of their annual growth in April, May and part of June. By the time we get to a lot of our areas, it is already very high. And, with the enormous number of grassy medians with signs, parks and trees, picnic tables and playground equipment to negotiate, we always seemed to be running behind the curve until the mid-’80s. We just didn’t have the equipment that could deliver the kind of performance we needed.”
Young and his staff began the search for new equipment by matching the needs dictated by their tasks with specific standards that would meet those needs. The criteria included demands that
* The mower had to be powerful enough for high, thick grass;
* It had to be highly maneuverable, capable of cutting close and clean around obstacles; and
* It had to be diesel-powered because of better fuel economy and Young’s belief that diesels were highly dependable.
Young and his team wrote a performance-based specification for bid purposes, and, after extensive research and testing of virtually every mower available, decided on the zero-turn three-cylinder diesel engine hydrostatic drive mower from Grasshopper, Moundridge, Kan.
“The zero-radius maneuverability makes these mowers ideal for trimming, small boulevard work and cutting close around playground equipment and trees,” Young says.
His team continues to mow through fall, using the mowers to mulch the leaves and recycle them into the ground in parks and recreation areas as well as along roadways.
“Toledo is ‘Tree-City USA’ and is as beautiful as any city you will find in the fall,” Young says. “There are dozens of varieties of trees that turn the city into a wonderland of color — but once the leaves fall, they are our responsibility. No matter what kind of leaves — oak leaves to 14-inch or 15-inch catalpa leaves — the mowing units leave the area beautiful and the soil enriched. And, we save enormous amounts of time.”
Because Young’s team works year-round, he emphasizes that there is no such thing as a slow season.
“Even during the winter months when trees are inactive, we prune the trees in every park and do general repair work to structures, picnic tables and other fixed assets.
“We apply pre-emergent weed control in late February or March, and then by the middle of April, we are cutting again and continue to do so through October,” Young says.
During the mowing season, Young’s staff swells to about 60 employees. “We put everyone through two-days of training. The first day is classroom work, and the second day is hands-on. Even newcomers pick up handling the zero-radius mowers almost immediately,” he says.
Young restricts the mower’s speed to 4 mph for safety and because it virtually eliminates the need for maintenance from rough handling.
“We emphasize daily preventive maintenance and try to keep each unit assigned to a specific individual,” Young says.