Gas prices are at an all-time high. There's no indication they will go down anytime soon. The dramatic price increase will undoubtedly strain many parks & recreation department budgets during the growing season.
So how do we navigate the significant rise in operation costs?
There's probably not one single answer. You'll likely need to develop a few strategies to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
One thing to consider…
Mow Less & Mow Smarter
A typical riding lawn mower burns about 1-2 gallons of gas an hour. Of course, fuel efficiency depends on many factors like the model and engine size, grade of the land, and how the mower is used. With this in mind, you can probably estimate how much more you'll be spending. You’ll get a more precise number if you’ve been tracking maintenance tasks.
Either way, that number is probably a lot higher than you want it to be.
Here are some ideas that can help your operating budget and the quality of your turf.
Do a Landscape Audit
Before the mowing season, take a closer look at your assets to determine how your crew spends time and fuel while mowing. Plot out the mowing tracts for each green space.
Keep track of the mowers used, size of your crew, time spent, and how frequently you cut.
The information from the audit helps determine where and how much fuel gets consumed during a mowing cycle.
Determine the Type of Turf
Once you establish fuel usage, it's time to find reductions. Start by taking a look at your turf usage. Not treating all turf equally may be an excellent option to save money.
In other words…Is it amenity or utility turf?
Amenity turf is frequently used grass--areas with lots of visitor traffic. This type of turf can include sports fields, areas reserved for special events, and near playgrounds.
Amenity turf needs more frequent mowing and maintenance.
Utility turf is the grass that doesn't have as much traffic from visitors. Utility turf can include the outlying areas of a large park, open space areas that don't have scheduled programming, and the lawn around administration and maintenance buildings.
Utility turf areas can be cut higher and less often. The lack of traffic allows utility turf to maintain a uniform appearance with less mowing.
Dynamically Schedule Mowing
On Mondays, we cut at Centennial Park. On Tuesdays, we mow at the Sports Complex and East Park…
Does this type of mowing schedule sound familiar? Mowing based on the day rather than if the grass needs it.
Sure, in the spring, this schedule works well. But what about the summer months? Consider inspecting the grass weekly to determine if it needs mowing.
Say there's a dry spell in July. The crew leader determines that mowing only needs to be done twice for the month. You just reduced your month’s mowing fuel costs by 50%.
Keep Mowers Maintained
Maintained mowers run more efficiently. Scheduling maintenance for all your mowers ensures they get the inspections and service they need throughout the year.
Sharp blades make mowers run more efficiently. Ensure blades stay sharp by keeping two sets of blades for each mower. Switch them out each week and sharpen the blade that's not in use.
Also, minimize wheel track wear. Consider changing the cutting pattern for each mowing cycle.
Replace Aging Equipment
Are your mowers nearing the end of their useful life cycle? This may be an excellent time to invest in more efficient equipment or equipment that runs on a different fuel source.
If money is set aside for capital purchases, determine replacement costs and estimated fuel costs to see if this is a viable option.
Communicate Changes More Effectively
If your mowing strategy changes this year, be sure your entire team knows the new procedures. A short in-service can help your regular and seasonal staff get on the same page.
Also, make sure you have a uniform way to communicate changes in mowing schedules, inspections and maintenance tasks, and the equipment used for each asset.
More parks department managers are discovering maintenance software makes relaying all this information quicker and easier.