Compact equipment helps Gulf Coast landscaper

By Eric Morse

Along the Gulf Coast, recovery from Hurricane Katrina continues more than two years after the storm came ashore. As the communities damaged by the storm recover, there is much to rebuild, from homes and businesses to schools and community infrastructure. Beyond these brick and mortar projects, there is another kind of rebuilding taking place — installing new landscaping around homes and businesses is equally important in restoring a sense of normalcy in the area.

This is where Driftwood Landscape, Inc. comes in. The Biloxi, Mississippi-based company has a history of assisting with hurricane clean-up. Once the debris is cleared out and homes are rebuilt, Driftwood Landscape, Inc. is hired by many homeowners to restore or build landscaping on new or rebuilt properties.

Such a project recently took place at a new home in Gulfport, Mississippi. The homeowners had purchased the property before Hurricane Katrina struck, but were not able to build a new home there before the storm. The property is located on the bayou. Before Katrina, the property was on a thoroughfare, near a bridge. The power of the hurricane washed out the bridge and created a need for the thoroughfare to be moved. The home is now located at the end of what has become an access road. According to Richard Drummond, president of Driftwood Landscape, Inc., one of the first things that the landscaper helped the homeowners with was determining the elevation of the home.

“Originally, the homeowner brought in several feet of fill to raise the house before Katrina,” said Drummond. “The storm was so powerful that it went off the flood maps from a previous hurricane. We raised the house two additional feet.”

With the house raised, landscaping features could be installed. Major design elements for the home include a pool with waterfall features, retaining walls, ground covers such as large palms, lighting and an irrigation system. The contractor also designed an entrance and circulation within the property with interlocking concrete pavers. Driftwood Landscape, Inc.’s fleet of equipment, which includes two compact track loaders and mini track loaders, was used to install all of these items, except the pool.

“The retaining walls are being installed because the house had been raised so high,” said Drummond. “There was so much fill dirt there that we built retaining walls to help terrace some of the planting areas and make the site better for planting.”

Drummond likes how compact equipment can perform many different functions on a jobsite. The compact track loaders have performed several duties at the Gulfport job, including moving fill, placing fill, and compacting and shaping the site. Once the site was prepared, a soil conditioner attachment was used for soil preparation for sod and seeding. A compact track loader was also used to transport sod during the sod instillation process.

The homeowners wanted to bring something from their previous home to the new location. However, the first home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Some palm trees survived at the first home and the homeowners decided to transport these trees to their new house. Driftwood Landscape, Inc. used the compact track loaders to move and place the 15- to 20-foot-tall trees at the new home.

Large palm trees weren’t the only thing being moved on the site. The homeowners have a large ship anchor collection that they wanted to incorporate into the design of the landscaping. Some of the ship anchors are up to six feet tall and four feet wide and weigh almost 1,500 pounds. The compact track loaders were useful in moving these awkward anchors around the site.

There are some areas on a landscaping jobsite that a large track loader can’t get to, which is why Driftwood Landscape, Inc. uses the mini track loaders. “We had to cross over areas with decorative paving, such as natural slate and concrete pavers,” says Drummond. “When we have to do that, we’ll pad the concrete and use the mini track loaders to transport materials because they are lighter.”

The mini track loaders are popular with Drummond because he says they lower his equipment costs. “The mini track loaders take the place of several pieces of equipment,” said Drummond. “We use the mini track loader as a front-end loader, forklift, trencher and soil conditioner, among other things. We don’t have to have a separate trencher onsite to do irrigation work. The mini track loader allows us to do many different things because it uses so many attachments.”

In addition to savings gained by using one machine to perform a multitude of tasks, the efficiency of the mini track loaders allows Driftwood Landscape, Inc. crews to be more productive. “The best thing I can say about the mini track loaders is that they have allowed us to work on more projects at one time without adding employees,” said Drummond. “I used to send five people out to one job before I got the mini track loaders. Now, I can send three people to one job and two people to another job and give both of those crews a mini track loader. These two crews at two different jobs produce as much work as one five-person crew without a mini track loader at one job.”

According to Drummond, he wouldn’t consider purchasing compact equipment without tracks. “Track machines give us more productivity when a construction site might be wet or muddy,” said Drummond. “Even though we can’t do fine grading or that kind of landscape work, we can still move and place materials on a wet or muddy jobsite. We wouldn’t be able to do that with a wheel unit.”

Not only does Drummond profit from the productivity provided by compact equipment, but so do his customers. Crews that can work more efficiently on more projects mean customers have less time to wait for work to be performed. That’s important in places like the Gulf Coast during hurricane recovery. With this landscaping project completed, Driftwood Landscape, Inc. has helped another family finish their home so they can move on with their life.

Eric Morse is with Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.

Article provided by Bobcat Company, Fargo, N.D.

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