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[ Publication: Landscape Contractor, August 2000 ]

Irrigation Challenge
Old Enfield Neighborhood preserves historical medians

Utz Environmental Services was declared the winner of the Irrigation Challenge. They worked on the largest median and had to replace a broken water meter before they could install the irrigation system.

Community members in the Old Enfield Neighborhood, located in Austin, Texas, banded together with local irrigation contractors to transform the overgrown, rundown medians leading to the Pease Mansion. The "Irrigation Challenge" was the pet project of Laurie Virkstism, vice president if the Old Enfield Homeowners Association. The installation of irrigation in the medians represents the second step in the beautification process. Once the irrigation system was installed, Old Enfield neighbors planted ground cover and the City of Austin forestry Department donated 30 hot pink crepe myrtle and hard wood trees.

On January 15, 2000, four already competitive irrigation companies were challenged to see who could finish the median installation in the best, fastest and neatest manner. Even though they undertook the largest of the four medians, Utz Environmental Services emerged as the winner. Wilson Irrigation, Key Sprinklers, and Austin Eagle Management also participated in the challenge. The teams installed irrigation equipment donated by Rain Bird and Z-Water Works. Monetary donations were made by local residents and businesses to help with other associated costs. Contributors include: Greater Texas Landscape, J. Pinnelli Company and Robert W. Kearl, General Contractor.

Chris Utz, owner of Utz Environmental Services, explained that the competition boosted the comradery between his workers. "It also gave me a chance to see how my guys perform under pressure," he said. The evening before the competition, Utz trenched all four medians so that installation could commence early the next morning.

Since the irrigation system and the crepe myrtle trees were installed, the Austin City Streets and Bridges built a rock ledge around the medians. The final step is to plant more than 1,200 Jasmine plants purchased with donations from homeowners and local businesses. The Old Enfield Neighborhood should be commended for their hard work and dedication to preserve the heritage of Pease Mansion.

The history of Pease Mansion is a fascinating one. Originally built by State Comptroller James B. Shaw on his 650-acre plantation, it was sold to Governor Elisha M. Pease in 1857. The Pease family and their descendants lived in the mansion until selling it to Governor Allen Shivers in 1957. The Governor gave the mansion the University of Texas in 1975. It was their wish that the property be sold and the proceeds be used to support endowed faculty chairs at the UT Austin law school and at UT Pan American.

Following the death of Mrs. Shivers in 1996, UT put the property up for sale. Lt. Governor Bob Bullock decided that the State should maintain public ownership of the mansion and directed that it be purchased by the State of Texas. In the last legislative session, title of the mansion was transferred from the State General Services Commission to the State Preservation Board. Currently, the Mansion is vacant and falling into disrepair as the State Preservation Board works to find a buyer. The Preservation Board determined the use of the mansion and has appropriated $3.2 million for its renovation and maintenance.

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