For a campus that is nationally recognized for its landscaping, the severe drought in Alabama has created both opportunities and challenges for Samford University, according to Don M. Mott, vice president for facilities.
Rainfall is more than 20 inches below normal, and the Birmingham region has been under major water restrictions for several weeks. In addition to the water shortage, temperatures have been in the high 90s and low 100s during the first days of August.
The lack of rain has helped major construction projects on campus, including the new Pete Hanna Center and a 600-vehicle parking deck, but has delayed some major landscaping projects.
"Although we need the rain, the lack of it has allowed our construction projects to stay on schedule," Mott said. The parking deck will open later in August. Completion of Pete Hanna Center is expected in early October. The new multipurpose athletics, special events and fitness/wellness facility is the largest single construction project since the campus was built 50 years ago.
Brick installation and other construction on the new Hazel P. Boren Courtyard and Gardens was completed several weeks ago, but landscaping has been delayed until more favorable weather conditions, Mott said. Landscaping around the new parking deck also has been delayed.
Landscaping crews have stayed busy, Mott noted, with seasonal projects not affected by the lack of rainfall.
The university has been able to do very little watering, although crews have kept water on the university's symbolic "Sherman Oak." The tree, grown from acorns connected back to the university's original campus in Marion, Ala., was recently relocated to the front of Samford Hall to allow room for its growth.
Ironically, the current campus opened in September 1957 with very little landscaping. Although buildings were finished in time for classes to start that fall, much of the "landscaping" consisted of sidewalks and mud. "Despite the effects of the drought, the campus definitely is in better shape than it was in 1957," Mott said.