Despite the many challenges the drought and multiple construction projects have brought to campus, Fresno State has been able to maintain its status as an arboretum and preserve the beautiful campus while advancing its infrastructure. Much of the credit goes to the Facilities Management and Plant Operations teams.
An arboretum is a place where plants, especially trees and shrubs, are grown for exhibition and study. It is a living collection of woody plants in a park-like setting or an oasis in the urban "sea." It is also the sum of many different examples of landscaping.
Fresno State earned its arboretum status in the spring 1979 because of the variety of plant and tree species that are maintained on campus. Today, the campus has about 4,000 trees and 250 acres of landscape garden plants and lawns.
For Mike Mosinski, grounds manager at Plant Operations, and others who have spent years devoted to Fresno State, the campus has become a second home.
He has been with Fresno State as a student and as a full-time employee for over 30 years. He’s seen the transformations that the University has undergone and is looking forward to the ones that are coming.
“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “We’re rebuilding things, we have funding, we’re restoring things, we’re redoing a lot of the landscapes and we’re able to create more specialty landscapes.”
The Valley’s six-year drought took its toll at Fresno State, but the campus was able to adapt, Mosinski said.
In addition to better water management, Fresno State has also invested in improving its water systems.
“‘Our motto is ‘make every drop of water count,’” he said.
Many of trees on campus need attention because they are old, susceptible to pests and some have a difficult time getting the nutrients that they needed.
“There are trees that were here when the campus was built in the early ’50s,” he said. “You might normally lose 40 to 50 trees a year, but because of the drought we’ve lost closer to 100 trees a year.”
In spring of 2016, around 100 trees at the end of their life cycle had to be removed because of safety hazards.
To mitigate the damage to landscape from construction projects and the lost trees and plants, Mosinski and his team plant new trees in their place.
“Our goal is for every tree we take out, we try to replace at two-to-one ratio,” Mosinski said. “It may not be in that spot, but it will be somewhere on campus.”
To learn more about Fresno State as an arboretum you can take the Treewalk and download the Treewalk guide. The Treewalk offers three unique trails that take up to two hours to complete.
Mosinski has a team of experienced specialists who keep the campus beautiful. Keep reading to meet a few of them.
Eduardo Zenteno has been working at Fresno State for the past 28 years. During this time, he has taken college classes related to his field.
"I have always enjoyed working outside, so when I was working in the Custodian Department, I decided to apply in the Grounds Department, and have been there for the last 27 years," he said.
Zenteno says the best part of his job is being able to work outside while providing a beautiful campus for everyone to enjoy. His area of responsibilities include campus mowing, weed and pest control, tree care and event support.
"All my job responsibilities are important since they all are essential to making the campus beautiful and safe," he said. "I take pride in the work I do for our campus."
Most recently, he has been involved with the infrastructure on campus, which included working the outside vendors and contractors to minimize the impact to grounds on campus.
"I also have become involved with the Arboretum Committee on campus," he said.
Zenteno has been married for 25 years and he and his wife have three sons: Oscar, 20; Sergio, 16; and Sebastian, 15. Their family is completed by four dogs and four cats.
His hobbies include following football and baseball. And yes, at home he still loves working outside.
Doug Moritz has been at Fresno State for 20 years as a gardening specialist, and has been a lead groundsman for the past 1 1/2 years.
But his interest in landscaping began long before that.
"It started out as a summer job," he said. "In junior high, and then in my 20s, I started a gardening service in San Jose," he said.
His favorite thing about working at Fresno State is seeing his efforts and the efforts of his coworkers come to life.
"The great comments we get from the students and faculty show us that our hard work is paying off," he said.
Moritz is responsible for overseeing the general maintenance of the areas people enjoy on campus, such as any landscape renovations, including planting, seeding and sodding. He said that the most important part about his job is keeping the campus running efficiently and keeping it safe, too.
In 2000, he and his coworkers received the National Baseball Field maintenance award for their work on campus.
"We just installed landscape at the Music Building called the Music Shade Garden with the help of some ornamental horticulture students and Professor Nishanaka," he said.
Like Zenteno, Moritz loves the outdoors. His hobbies include fishing and coaching sports. He also enjoys garage and estate sales. Besides this, he's not averse to a game of Texas hold 'em now and then.
Moritz is single and has two children ages 26 and 23 — both graduates of Fresno State.
Joe Contreras also has worked at Fresno State for 20 years. An irrigation lead supervisor, he says he has to adapt as irrigation continues to change with the times.
"I attend several courses throughout the year to stay informed with the changes," he said. "Everything about water is very interesting to me. Water sustains all life kind, where we get our water, how we store our water and how we use our water."
Contreras likes to find ways to save water during summer, the most difficult time of year; last year, he said he and his team were able to save 500,000 thousand gallons of water a day, exceeding the governor's mandate by 10 percent.
Keeping the campus looking beautiful all year requires constant updates.
"I control all irrigation on campus as well as athletics," he said. "I design irrigation systems. I audit our older irrigation systems and determine if we need to upgrade the system out in the field.
"Our objective is to keep all plant life thriving, meanwhile making sure all irrigation equipment is working properly and efficiently," he said.
When he is not at work, you will find him coaching his son's basketball and soccer teams. Otherwise, he and his family are hitting the trails throughout the Sierras or escaping the Valley heat at their favorite beach — Avila.
He and his wife will celebrate their 28th anniversary this April. They have a son and a daughter, plus three rescue dogs and three rabbits.