Oops! Mistake kills most grass at University of Findlay campus

CHRIS NICKELL, of Maumee Bay Turf Center, prepares to install new sod at University of Findlay President Katherine Fell’s house. The university is being forced to replace about 75 percent of the grass on campus after a chemical similar to “RoundUp,” a weed killer, was accidentally applied to the grass instead of a fertilizer. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

CHRIS NICKELL, of Maumee Bay Turf Center, prepares to install new sod at University of Findlay President Katherine Fell’s house. The university is being forced to replace about 75 percent of the grass on campus after a chemical similar to “RoundUp,” a weed killer, was accidentally applied to the grass instead of a fertilizer. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER

The grass really is greener on the other side of the fence — if you’re standing on the University of Findlay’s campus.

The university is being forced to replace about 75 percent of its grass after a chemical similar to “RoundUp,” a weed killer, was accidentally applied to the grass instead of a fertilizer, said Brianna Patterson, media relations coordinator for the university.

A private company made the mistake, Patterson said.

“It’s just unfortunate because we work so hard to keep the campus looking nice and then something like this happens,” Patterson said.

With 75 percent of the campus affected, as much as 54 of the 72 acres of campus may have had grass killed, meaning the repairs will be expensive.

Tim DeHaven, owner of DeHaven Home and Garden Showplace, said replacing the grass could cost between $432,000 and $2.1 million. Laying new sod on an acre costs about $40,000, while reseeding an acre costs about $8,000, DeHaven said.

The high expense is related to the amount of labor it takes to reseed or re-sod large areas of land, DeHaven said.

“It’s a costly proposition to replace all of that,” DeHaven said.

No official cost estimate for the grass replacement was available Thursday, Patterson said.

Grass is being replaced at the university president’s house, also called Carrothers House, and at the Old Main building, Alumni Memorial Union, Egner Theater, the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, the main mall area of campus, the Women’s Resource Center, the Davis Street Building, the Alumni House, and Bare, Fox, Morey and Myers residence halls.

All areas visible along Main Street and at the president’s house will be re-sodded, and then the university will look at how best to replace the grass on the remaining areas of campus, according to a statement released Thursday by the university.

The university asked for “patience and understanding” by students, faculty, staff and community members as officials try to “restore lawns to their usual vibrant beauty.”

The university is not releasing the name of the company that made the mistake, but is currently working with the company’s insurance provider to pay for the repairs, according to the statement.

The “RoundUp”-like chemical sprayed on the grass shouldn’t cause issues with trying to regrow grass, DeHaven said.

“It only kills what it touches,” DeHaven said. “There shouldn’t be any residual chemicals preventing them from growing new grass. It’s not that potent.”

The soil would only have been damaged if a much stronger chemical compound was applied, he said.

The chemical was applied to campus lawns sometime during the last week of April. It is estimated it will take several weeks to reseed and re-sod the parts of campus affected, Patterson said.

A similar, smaller situation occurred at Van Buren High School in 2012 when some weed or grass killer was accidentally put on a soccer field during the summer, said Tim Myers, superintendent at Van Buren.

“We didn’t clean out the sprayer enough after we sprayed for weeds and before we used it to spray fertilizer on the field,” Myers said.

Last August, grass was killed along U.S. 224 and Ohio 65 in Putnam County after a contractor hired by the state used “too harsh” of a chemical to kill roadside weeds, according to the Putnam County Sentinel.

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