Trees, flowers, intricate architecture and thought-provoking artwork attract pedestrians’ gaze across Texas Tech University’s campus. But a dirt path in the grass? Not so much.
Texas Tech’s campus encompasses about 1,800 acres, crisscrossed by many sidewalks. Some of them are underused because walkers prefer to cut across the grass.
Jason Markwardt, a senior biology major, said he uses the dirt paths often because they save time. He sees many students do the same, even though the grass is dying in places.
“It’s quicker, and this campus is so large,” Markwardt said. “Sometimes going to class takes a long time, so whatever saves time.”
Haley Hogan, a sophomore exercise and sports science major, also said she sees many who cut across the grass. But she always tries to do the right thing and walk on the sidewalks because this is what they are for.
“It’s really hard to see people walk on [the grass],” Hogan said. “You can see it’s all dead over here by the English building. That’s because people … want to cut the corners of things.”
Emma Wood, a junior chemical engineering major, said the paths may save a few seconds but make Tech’s campus look bad, even though the university spends much time and money to beautify it.
Charles Leatherwood, managing director of Tech’s Grounds Maintenance Department, said his team works 40 hours a week on upkeep and has identified many areas where paths have formed. The issue has been discussed by the Traffic and Pedestrian Awareness Committee, but an all-encompassing solution is yet to be found.
Hogan said she believes the problem could be remedied by raising awareness through information sessions.
“We could stop it if we could grow the grass back … and show people this is why there’s a sidewalk because you’re killing grass,” Hogan said.
Both she and Wood also suggested putting up signs encouraging students to not walk on the grass.
The Grounds Maintenance Department, however, uses a more subtle approach. It sets up natural barriers to keep pedestrians from walking through paths in the grass. These include landscape boulders, flower beds or trees, Leatherwood said.
The department is also planning on installing new sidewalks, pending funds availability. The new walkways will be on the east side of Bledsoe Residence Hall, from the Z-1 parking lot to Main Street, as well as near the National Wind Institute and the Carpenter/Wells Complex.
Because the paths in the grass reflect high traffic, the addition of sidewalks is expected to decrease their use, Leatherwood said.
Hogan plans to keep using the sidewalks.
“I was always raised to make sure the grass is clean and taken care of,” Hogan said.