Historic Horseshoe to get new grass, bricks

By Jeff Stensland, 803-777-3686

The University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe is getting a summer makeover of fresh grass and new bricks, and that should be welcomed news for the picnickers, bookworms and Frisbee enthusiasts who enjoy spending time basking under the trees.

Beginning in June, more than 2 acres of fresh sod will replace the current turf, which has become patchy and weed-ridden over time. Replacement bricks also will be installed on the path from Desaussure to Rutledge at the east end of the Horseshoe where the pathway has begun to bow.

The re-sodding and path repair coincide with another ambitious project that will replace thousands of the Horseshoe wall’s crumbling bricks and decaying mortar. The work will begin along the south side of Pendleton Street near Maxcy College. The work will include grinding of the old mortar, cleaning and general brick repair and reconstruction.

The re-sodding project means that summer activities on the Horseshoe will be limited during June and July, and visitors will be asked to “keep off the grass” for several weeks while the new sod takes hold, says university landscape architect Emily Jones. Annual activities typically held on the Horseshoe during those summer months have been moved to alternate locations.

The grass chosen for the re-sodding project is a variety called zoysia and was specifically selected for its lush feel and appearance as well as its ability to withstand harsh conditions. Tom Knowles, assistant director of the university’s landscaping and environmental services, says maintaining healthy grass under a canopy of large trees is a challenge.

“Mature trees and healthy turf are at odds with each other,” Knowles says. “Turf generally prefers full sun, whereas a shade canopy of mature trees has a very different ‘forest floor’ of understory plants that would be undisturbed by mowing and other practices required by the turf. So we try to manage this special area to optimize the balance of both needs — trees and turf.”

Knowles says keeping the Horseshoe in top shape year-round is worth the effort. Earlier this year, Knowles and his team received a special achievement award from the City of Columbia for their contribution to the city’s appearance and quality of life. And the university was recently earned its sixth Tree Campus USA designation. “The Horseshoe requires vigilant stewardship, as it is our most cherished space on campus,” Knowles says.