Heavy rainfall, low sunlight and high traffic have been consistent factors limiting grass growth on East Mall for the past few years.
Last weekend, UT Landscape Services installed new grass and crushed stone along sections of the mall to widen the walkways and allow student tabling without further damaging the lawn, landscape supervisor Mike Klemmer said.
“We also built it the way it is now, with the gravel around the edges, to slow down the water that washes across there and help keep all the soil in place,” Klemmer said. “We still want to make it usable for people who need to use it.”
Landscape Services manager Jim Carse said in previous years, they have replaced the entire East Mall lawn because of how worn down it gets.
“We’re just not going to go down that road, or at least not to that extent, because not only is it unsustainable, but it would be cost prohibitive,” Carse said. “So, what we’ve done is a temporary solution.”
With the crushed stone, Landscape Services hopes to limit erosion and alleviate the lack of drainage in the area, Carse said.
“That site has only two storm drains that are really close to it, and then when you get a big rain, only a little bit of that water can reach those drains,” Carse said. “What that stone does is it helps filter and slow down the rain and storm water in that area.”
Because of similar issues, Landscape Services began blocking off the South Mall lawn from foot traffic six years ago and redistributed events held on the lawn to other areas of campus, such as Speedway Mall and the LBJ Lawn, to preserve the grass. However, because the space on East Mall is still widely used, Carse said they will work to make it accessible to students.
“With East Mall, I think it’ll be event-driven,” Carse said. “I think there’ll be times when we will block off those grass areas, but now it’s a much lower amount of grass, and it’s more maintainable.”
Psychology freshman Raven Botello said she appreciates that students are still able to use some of the space on East Mall while they work to fix the lawn.
“It’s nice students can still use the space to set up booths instead of them blocking the entire lawn,” Botello said. “Last semester, I was walking near East Mall when it was raining a lot, and it was just flat out mud, so I think adding the grass and rocks looks much better.”
Going forward, Carse said Landscape Services is looking for a long-term solution to redesign the mall for student use that takes into account
“Whatever (the solution) is, it needs to be functional for a huge amount of stakeholders,” Carse said. “We have to rethink that area but also keep in mind that it’s an iconic, historic space.”