The Man Who Mows the National Mall
A National Park Service Worker in Washington Discusses His John Deere Lawn Mower
Michael Stachowicz, 44, head of turf management for the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on his lawn mower, as told to A.J. Baime:
The National Mall—America's Front Yard—goes from 3rd Street to the Washington Monument. It's the most heavily trafficked turf in the country, I'm told, with about 25 million visitors each year. For a lot of the tourists who will come to see it this Independence Day weekend, and throughout the year, this is their impression of America. This might be the one park they go to, and we take that very seriously.
The turf is 10% bluegrass and 90% tall fescue. Within that, there are other blends of turf, bred to resist drought and disease and to maintain winter color.
Our mower was donated by John Deere—a model 8800 TerrainCut. It's incredible how high-tech mowers have become compared with 20 years ago. The 8800 has a 42-horsepower diesel engine and five individual floating decks that articulate, so they can hug the contours of the ground. The Mall has a convex shape, so the mower's articulation is key. The mower is quiet and not too big, so it's not intrusive to visitors. It has four-wheel drive for good traction and safety features galore. (It automatically shuts off if you get off the seat, for example.)
It takes me three hours to mow 6½ acres. Every acre is a labor of love.