The grounds and events department of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) is rolling out colored salt as part of their preparation for upcoming winter on campus, according to Ron Lavoie, athletic grounds supervisor.
With 16 miles of sidewalk, nine miles of road and 48 acres of parking space on campus, dealing with winter weather at UNH is a difficult task, and dying their salt pink is just the latest in a string of programs by the grounds department to help prepare.
The salt is colored with an organic powdered dye, and presents with a pink hue. This change is due to problems had in the past where the original salt would “blend in with the show,” according to Lavoie.
“We’re hoping the colored salt will stand out,” Lavoie said. The state monitors the use of salt due to its environmental impacts, and as such, the grounds department has to show yearly reduction in salt use while also meeting campus demands. The hope, according to Lavoie and his colleagues, is that the pink salt will help people see already-treated areas and limit requests for extra salt.
In addition, the communal salt bins will be returning for their second year. They will be placed in areas “we know are issues” to “empower people to help themselves and others,” according to Jim Malo, a grounds supervisor. They will be adding six more bins this year, and have extras on hand in case new problem areas become apparent. They will be concentrated on slopes and areas identified as treacherous or high-use.
Last winter, the bins received some criticism from campus residents who erroneously believed that these bins were replacing regular salt-spreading efforts by the grounds crew. Malo clarified that the bins “aren’t for us, they’re for anybody” who sees ice and wants to add some additional assistance. “We have our own equipment,” he said.
Further winter preparation includes hiring students for the third winter of the grounds department student shoveling program. Despite a wide range of multi-functional high-grade equipment, there are many areas of campus that are inaccessible to the vehicles that the grounds department uses, leaving shoveling the only option. “There’s a lot of space to cover, and we always need more people to shovel,” Brian Mead, another supervisor, said.
Despite the 4 a.m. start time on storm days, Mead and the rest of the grounds department hopes to get more students on board.
“We like giving money back to students,” Mead said, referring to the $14 per hour wage.
Additionally, the grounds department is currently “light on operators” for their specialized equipment, according to Paul Chaloux, the manager of the department. Five full-time positions are currently empty, making the task of keeping the campus mobile tougher.
“Curtailment is not always to our advantage,” Chaloux said, because of work shift lengths and the limitations of a stretched staff.
But, Lavoie added, “somebody’s always here.” The grounds department is on call 24/7 during storms, with people always “here to respond” to any snow removal needs. They are also bringing in workers from nearby areas to fill the gaps in their full-time staff.
“People think we don’t care, which is the farthest thing from the truth,” Chaloux said. He said that the department always expects calls and complaints after every storm, despite the efforts to clear the campus. “That’s just the industry. People hate snow.”
With snow potentially on the way as soon as next week, the colored salt and the other grounds department programs will soon be put into place for the long winter months ahead.