Drought forces restrictions on lawn usage

Tech’s Space Planning and Facilities Operations and Maintenance have decided to temporarily restrict how campus lawns are used by the students.

The restriction prevents the use of grassy areas for major events and affects annual festivities like Sting Break, Earth Day, Greek Week and Relay for Life, among others. Prohibited areas include almost all green space on campus, including Yellow Jacket Park. Large crowds are still welcome at the Burger Bowl and the SAC fields however.

According to Warren Page, director of Facilities Operations and Maintenance, the decision was made jointly by Space Planning and Facilities after Governor Sonny Perdue’s executive order to halt the installation of new landscaping by state facilities. In addition, an outdoor watering ban has been in effect since September 2007, when the EPD released a statement confirming that the northernmost third of Georgia, including all of metro Atlanta, is in a level four drought.

“We’re not allowed to do any watering, we’re not allowed to do any planting. We can’t maintain the grass areas and the signature areas on the campus like the green around the Campanile,” Page said.

Outdoor concerts are especially difficult on the upkeep of campus green space: they often consist of stage set up, trailers, vehicles and pedestrian traffic that damage the lawn.

“We’ve got the capability to come in there and re-sod and do all that work and level the place off. Right now we can’t do that. So what would happen after an event…it would be left like that and I don’t think the Space Planning people and the campus would find that acceptable,“ Page said.

Meanwhile, campus events coordinators are scrambling to find alternative venues for their activities.

“It’s really frustrating when you think that you have something booked and then they take it away from you,“ said Chloe Stewart, Student Center Programs Council concert chair and second-year STAC major.

Mike DiFeo, a third-year CHBE major and Festival Chair, and Stewart are responsible for planning this year’s Sting Break.

DiFeo and Stewart, along with students from other organizations, met with representatives from Space Planning and Facilities last week.

“We’re expecting five thousand people, give or take, and where are you going to put those people? I spent the entire meeting just coming up with brainstorm after brainstorm, idea after idea,“ Stewart said.

Multiple events are scheduled for the same week as Sting Break. Earth Day, Greek Week and Relay for Life are all set to occur within the third week of April.

“There are so many events. How are we supposed to have all these events in the two locations that we’ve been given as alternatives, which are the Burger Bowl and the SAC fields?“ Stewart said.

The two approved locations will not easily accommodate the range of activities in such a short time span. DiFeo and Stewart are looking into alternatives: closing off streets or using a parking lot. For the concert portion of Sting Break, the Coliseum is out of the question.

“[It will be] closed for renovation,“ Stewart said.

DiFeo credits the central location for the success of last year’s Sting Break Festival.

“It was great because we were right on Skiles. You didn’t really have to be aware of it before hand because either you were going to walk past it or your friends were going to call you up,“ DiFeo said.

While both DiFeo and Stewart say they understand why the decision was made to preserve the lawns, they are frustrated by the limited flexibility of alternate locations.

They are expecting a large turn out for Sting Break this year and hope that the change in location will not negatively affect attendance at the event.