As springtime draws near, the environmental makeovers begin.
From grass trimming to running irrigation systems, the Southern Ute Grounds Maintenance Division strives to provide a safe environment on tribal grounds year round. Since the beginning of the year, trimming trees around tribal campus has been a top concern for the division, said Division Head Dale Santistevan.
“We plan to make this place more beautiful and take out all the hazards,” Santistevan said. “Limbs would fall. … They’re getting old with wear and tear. [We plan] to get a jumpstart on a new growing season for them so they develop a little healthier.”
Klatt & Son Tree Service, a tree-cutting business from Durango, began in early January to do away with some of the dead wood around the tribal campus, making stops at the Southern Ute Montessori Head Start and KSUT.
“There are 40 trees to cut,” said Danny Klatt, owner of the business. “We’ve been along the Annex Building, Food Distribution … [and] we go different places in town to make sure the trees are safe.”
Klatt said trimming healthy trees can extend their lives.
“Basically we’re just giving them a haircut so they can last longer,” he said. “Any other dead trees or wood go to the burn pile.”
At one site, Klatt entered a cherry picker. Revving a chainsaw, he extended high above ground. He cut through the limbs, sawdust flying everywhere, before sending a stump crashing below.
Santistevan said the division performs a variety of seasonal and year-round duties to keep the tribal campus in top shape.
“We take care of all the grassy areas, low trim, and irrigation systems,” he said. “We also take care of the ball fields, parks and cemetery. When requested, we also help with furniture moves. … We’re all around.”
As the seasons change, the division’s daily goals might be put on hold during inclement weather. Changes in the temperature can cause malfunctions in tools and other important utilities.
“It’s sort of hard in the wintertime,” Santistevan said. “When it’s cold, you can’t start engines or your equipment. When a heavy storm comes through, we can’t keep up with it.”
However, Santistevan noted this season is not one to worry about.
“It all depends on the winter,” he said. “This winter is nothing compared to what we’ve had in the past.”
Santistevan said with warmer weather approaching, the division will switch gears.
“[In the summer], it’s grass cutting, trimming, and helping other departments with whatever they need,” he said. “Plus, the tribal activities; we do help with the Bear Dance and Sun Dance.”
In the end, having a safe and healthy tribal campus is all in a day’s work. An accomplishment like that cannot be completed without a hardworking crew, Santistevan said.
“I have a good crew, I like my crew,” he said. “These guys do all the work. I’ve been there with them before I became supervisor. We’ve had compliments from people back east and I pass that along to them.”
The team takes great pride in its work, Santistevan said.
“[One person told me] he thought the campus was an Ivy League college,” he said. “That makes me feel good. We’re just trying to do our best to make everything look beautiful and safe. We hope people enjoy our campus.”