A manicured lawn for all: Piedmont Park’s maintenance contract sets high goals

By David Pendered

Though the Piedmont Park Conservancy reports investments of more than $66 million to restore and nurture Piedmont Park, the city of Atlanta still tends the park. Atlanta’s attention to detail is evident in the pending deal to maintain the lawn and flower beds.

piedmont grass, girl, dog

The manicured lawn of Piedmont Park provides everyone the chance for a moment of respite in a place that can feel like a personal retreat. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Grass cutting isn’t as splashy at some of the conservancy’s big projects, such as the renovation of the 1911 Bathhouse and 1973 swimming pool. Or educational, such as the conservancy’s participation in the July 13 Mayoral Candidate Forum Greenspace.

Lawn maintenance does add to the enjoyment of, say, passing the park on 10th Street and taking in the sight of that vast greenspace framed by the high rises of Midtown.

The city is shopping for a company to mow the grass and maintain from 20 to 25 landscape beds in Piedmont Park. Vendors met Monday with city officials and toured property including the three lawns to be cut: Oak Hill, The Meadow, and The Front Lawn.

Pressure may be mounting on city parks officials to have the job done well. A city audit released July 17 found that Piedmont Park is in poor condition.

piedmont grass, festival

The pending lawn maintenance contract at Piedmont Park forbids grass to be cut during events. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Piedmont Park’s inspection score was just above 60 percent, according to the audit. The average score of 40 randomly selected parks was 73 percent. A total of 15 parks scored below 70 percent, “indicating the park was in poor condition,” the audit stated, adding:

  • “The most frequent problems that we observed were catch basins clogged with leaves, the accumulation of fallen leaves and tree limbs, litter and tree branches hanging in pedestrian areas, and faded or dirty park rules signs. Needed repairs carried over from prior annual quality inspections contributed to lower scores.”

The request for proposals for lawn maintenance was released July 12. That’s before the audit was made public, but months after the audit began.

The RFP divides the task of lawn maintenance into eight tasks, starting with mowing, edging, aerating and watering, and concluding with rut repair, overseeding, flower bed maintenance, and turf fertilization.

The experience and training of the crew is the first element listed in the request for proposals the city has issued.

piedmont grass, sports

The pattern of mowing is important at Piedmont Park. Mowers are to change their routes every week and leave a pleasing pattern. Credit: Kelly Jordan

For starters, the company must have been in the lawn business at least five years and have a staff of at least six. One of them must have credentials in a field such as agronomy, horticulture or dendrology. Those who will apply chemicals and fertilizers must possess a valid state license to do so.

Personal appearance matters. The company has to provide uniforms that must be worn while on city property.

The second priority is to make sure that shredded bits of trash aren’t strewn around the park when mowers hit debris such as a newspaper or bag of discarded food. All debris, including cigarette butts, are to be picked up before mowing commences. Debris can’t be placed in a trash receptacle used by the public, though the RFP doesn’t say where the debris is to go.

The finished product should appear like a manicured lawn: “An orderly pattern of mowing should be developed in order to leave a visually pleasing appearance and to avoid rutting.”

piedmont grass

Pathways are to be edged every two weeks with a metal-bladed edger. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Edging is a big deal. Only metal-bladed edgers may be used. Landscape beds are to be trimmed in, “gentle curves and lines where it is appropriate and avoiding zigzagging bed lines with sharp angles whenever possible.”

Even with six pages of terms that outline this level of detail, the need for the Piedmont Park Conservancy remains.

Last year, the conservancy reported spending $148,785 on landscaping at the park. Restroom cleaning cost an additional $123,227, according to 990 tax forms filed by the tax-exempt organization.

Just this month, a large stand of brush, trash and invasive plants were removed, and a decorative wall added, to a section along Piedmont Avenue. The conservancy completed the work in July with funding from the Kendeda Foundation.

“We wanted to bring this area up to the expectations of what Atlantans know to be beautiful Piedmont Park,” Mark Banta, president/CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, said in a report posted on the conservancy’s website.

 

The lawn maintenance contract for Piedmont Park calls for expertise in caring for turf and trees. Credit: Kelly Jordan

 

piedmont grass, child running

The rolling terrain in Piedmont Park creates challenges for athletes of all ages. Credit: Kelly Jordan

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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