Hands behind the U: Groundskeeper speaks out

By By Jaime Winston

By Jaime Winston

One morning Scott Noel came to work to find a television had been smashed on the ground. Another day he found a pig’s foot lying in a U parking lot.

These are only some of the strange things Noel, who has worked as a U landscape gardener for nine years, deals with during his time on the job, but most days it’s cigarette butts littered on the sidewalk, long grass and trees in need of pruning.

Noel graduated from the U with a degree in music and is a member of the Utah Opera Chorus. He earned a master’s degree in the gardening program at Utah State.

When he isn’t singing, he can be found taking care of the grounds by the U hospital.

Ten years before becoming a groundskeeper, Noel worked at a greenhouse in the biology department, but the position was eliminated for financial reasons. He liked the benefits the U offered and the campus, which led him to his current position.

“When you’re in the greenhouse, you’re really with the plants exclusively. When you’re out here its plants, lawn, trash and cigarette butts,” Noel said. “It’s a much wider field here than in the greenhouse.”

Noel said the worst part of the job is cleaning up after students.

“No doubt about it,” he said, “Garbage and cigarette butts are a high priority because people make a mess and it has to be cleaned up.”

Noel and other groundskeepers are often left to clean up large items such as broken chairs. “If you’re over in the dorm area you get smashed items and strange things all the time. It almost becomes normal, nothing surprises us really,” he said.

Noel prefers working in the gardens, and he also keeps an eye on the irrigation system and takes care of the lawns.

Local wildlife isn’t usually a problem for Noel, aside from magpies.

“The biggest wildlife problem is the magpies because sometimes you actually have to kick them out of the garbage cans before you change them,” he said.

The groundskeepers at the U learn to be flexible with their time. When Noel is mowing and sees a student lying on the grass, he knows to switch to another lawn. Many groundskeepers learn when their area is busy and try to get work done beforehand.

“If the equipment breaks down you have to do something else. You can’t just sit there and scratch your head,” Noel said.

There are three levels of groundskeepers at the U. Noel is a landscape gardener, which means he has gone through a master gardener program and has a pesticide license. Other groundskeepers are gardeners, who have some training, and hourly workers, who don’t have to be trained.

“The best part is just working outside. I enjoy being outside, I enjoy working outside,” Noel said. “It gives you a good experience with a variety of things to do.”

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Teresa Getten

Scott Noel, who works as a U landscape gardener, graduated from the U with a degree in music and is a member of the Utah Opera Chorus.