Overcoming Obstacles

Ron Stanley doesn't let anything get in the way of his job. Day in and day out, he faces obstacles — 20,000 of them, to be exact. But he doesn't let them get him down. Not when he has a fleet of zero-turn mowers to help him sidestep them at every turn.

Stanley and his crew provide grounds maintenance services for the largest campground and cabin rental facilities in Monticello, Ind. With an abundance of bass, catfish, bluegill and many other species of fish, Lake Shafer and Lake Freeman in Monticello have made the town one of the most popular vacation destinations in the region. Though still a favorite place to fish, visitors today can choose from a variety of additional activities. Golf courses, beaches, sandbars, watercraft rentals, the Indiana Beach Amusement Park and other attractions draw families to Monticello each season. The increase in visitors has also increased the demand for places to stay, resulting in more campgrounds and cabin areas.

With more than 2,000 campsites covering more than 120 acres, Stanley says cutting the grass every week would be daunting, even if there were no obstacles. However, each campsite includes as many as 10 obstacles, making the job anything but easy. “There is an electrical hookup, picnic table, cable TV hookup, a sewer pipe and at least three trees in each camp site that we have to mow around,” says Stanley. “You take 2,000 or so campsites and multiply that number by 10 obstacles each, and you get a pretty good idea of why we like the maneuverability of our zero-turn mowers and their day-in-and-day-out dependability.”

Their ability to maneuver in tight spaces has always been the appeal of the zero-turn mower. Designed with a short overall length and low center of gravity, these mowers can handle steep terrain as well as they can glide around obstacles.

Stanley explains that he and his crew rarely ever have the opportunity to mow in a straight line at the campgrounds. “Regular mowers just couldn't take the constant maneuvering that we do,” he says.

In addition to being tough enough to take the constant maneuvering, Stanley says the zero-turn's ability to trim close around obstacles adds tremendously to his team's productivity. “We just couldn't get the job done if the these mowers didn't trim as close as they do. Having to go back to hand trim around all of those obstacles would double the number of people the job would take or double the time it would take to do the job with my existing crew,” he says. “With the amount of people using the campgrounds every week, we would never be able to keep up with the schedule.”

Stanley and his crew also take care of about 30 log cabins, many of which are top-of-the-line luxury cabins with pools and pristine lawn areas. The quality of cut offered by the zero-turn mowers is not compromised by the fact that they're fast and maneuverable. “That means we can take care of the luxury cabins and the couple of acres of courtyard in the middle of the campgrounds just as easily as anywhere else.”

During the week, the campgrounds are usually a third to two-thirds occupied with as many as 10,000 people camping on a weekend. “Campers like this place because the grass is just like carpet. It's really soft,” says Stanley. “People tell me that when they go to the big, nationally-known, campgrounds, they say it's nothing but dirt and dust, and they'll never go back to those places again.”

The kid-friendly, perfectly manicured grass, Stanley explains, translates into perceived quality that draws people back year after year.

In addition to the 120 acres at the campground, Stanley and his crew also maintain another 30 acres of parking at the facility and nearly 50 cabins every week throughout the growing season. Some of the properties are estates with lawns as large as six acres or more.

Stanley is blunt about the enormity of the job he and his crew face every week. “If it was just all straight cutting without the 20,000 obstacles,” Stanley emphasizes, “it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But we're turning those mowers constantly. I'm convinced we just couldn't get done what we have to get done each week without our six mowers. I have never used any other mower that can come close to the ease of handling, close-trimming ability and ability to take constant turning we put them through.”

Stanley, who has provided the grounds maintenance in the area for 15 years, has noticed that since he and his crew started using the zero-turn mowers, more people are asking them about the mowers themselves. “People are so impressed with the cut we leave and how fast we can get the job done, somebody is always coming up to me and asking about the mowers. I let them drive them to see how easy they are to learn and operate. They're always very impressed.”

In the fall, Stanley converts the mower decks from their side-discharge configuration to mulching, and blows the finely chopped leaves down into the soil at the base of the turf to serve as fertilizer.

“No matter what the season, rain or shine, we wouldn't think about using any other mowers,” Stanley says. “These mowers make us look good because we make the facilities owners look good.”

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