While the Physical Plant Department oversees many aspects of campus, the grounds and landscaping section maintains the grounds and water features with a staff of about 50.

It empties trash cans, cleans sidewalks, tables and benches, mows grass and removes graffiti. The staff includes certified arborists who care for the campus arboretum, an area where trees are grown for educational and recreational purposes.

UNM’s arboretum is one of the largest in the state and has about 150 species of trees, said Gary Smith, associate director of Environmental Services. There are nearly 7,000 individual trees and about that many herbaceous plants as well.

“It allows people to come to campus and see the trees and how they perform here — both native and non-native species,” Smith said. “It’s an important educational component. The aesthetic value speaks for itself. It’s important for people to have the opportunity because there aren’t that many places where you can go visit many different species of open-grown trees in an area.”

UNM’s landscape architects are interested in keeping the landscapes sustainable to prolong the lives of plants and trees on campus. A great deal of planning goes into any changes to the landscape, Mortier said. If a new building is planned, the outdoor implications must also be considered. Issues like drainage, numbers of pedestrians and pre-existing plants are analyzed.

“Green infrastructure” and “low-impact development” techniques are used whenever possible to build with everything that is available to them to create a healthier environment. For example, landscape designs that reduce water run-off are often explored since water conservation is a big deal, Mortier said.

“The importance of the campus environment is many times overlooked,” she said. “However, when prospective students think about where they want to attend college, studies have shown that the campus environment often plays a major role in that decision ... An inspiring view, a conversation with a friend or a quiet meditation with the campus landscape as the backdrop can create memories for a lifetime.”

Landscape areas that are not directly associated with a building project are funded through a combination of sources. For example, they are frequently funded by a capital outlay bill passed through the legislature. The recreation area north of Johnson Field was funded in this way last summer.

Marielle Dent is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached her at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Marielle_Dent.