Minneapolis tests prototype mulching mower
In 1990, when the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation department was offered the opportunity to test a prototype mulching mower by Toro, District Maintenance Supervisor Stephen Vogen jumped. “We were already hip to the fact that these machines were coming out on the market,” he says. “We knew we had a need for recycling decks, and this gave us a chance to test the mower while it was still being developed.”
He discovered during the course of the trials that the mulching feature would allow the city to cut the number of man hours, as well as the number of mowers, necessary to meet its parks and recreation maintenance requirements.
“We have approximately 5,000 acres to cut in the parks system, and we’re on a 10-day cutting rotation,” says Vogen. But especially during the spring and wet periods when there is a surge in grass growth, cutting crews cannot get to the same locations within 10 days.
A few years ago, delays such as this were compounded by the crews’ inability to cut the resulting higher grass in one pass.About a quarter of the time, when grass was getting long, we were leaving windrows and double cutting,” says Vogen. “It was slowing us down.”
With recycling decks, however, mowing was smoother. “We found that with long grass we had to cut a little slower, but ultimately it was faster because we weren’t taking the time to cut a second time,” Vogen says.
In addition to saving time, the recycling decks enhance safety along the mowing routes, he adds. “Because the equipment is self-contained, we can cut much closer to areas such as athletic fields and play, grounds while people are there. Before, we were worried about something being thrown from [the mower’s] chute.”
By 1991, the parks and recreation department was ready to lease 18 of the new mowers, reducing its mower fleet by five. Since then, the department has eliminated two more units. All but a few of the remaining 72-inch mowers in the parks department have recycling decks.
“We’ve cut costs,” says Vogen. “We like the way the grass looks, and we do a better job in fewer hours.”