Centreville company supplies lawn for WW II Memorial
CENTREVILLE — Nestled between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, granite pillars stand against the buzz of the nation’s capital. On quiet moments between swells of tourists and sightseers, the memorial has a particular sense of presence, drowning out white noise with the sound of bubbling fountain water. Every aspect of the memorial is designed to bring visitors to a place in which tragedies of the past are given a space to be remembered. Standing at the heart of Washington D.C.’s National World War II Memorial, visitors realize every feature tells a stor y.
No decision regarding this space is made without thought and consideration. Managed by the National Parks Service, every design element, ever y pillar, even down the choice of grass selected for the landscape, is evaluated for the way the memorial is used by members of the public. As evidence of this, the National Parks Service recently installed 11,000 square feet of PremierPRO Bermuda grass, developed by Dr. Milt Engelke and Dr. Virginia Lehman, and licensed and marketed by Sod Production Services of Charles City, Virginia, as a part of a trial of turf grasses varieties across a number of national parks.
Bill Warpinski, co-owner and manager of Central Sod Farms of Maryland Inc., a licensed producer of PremierPRO Bermuda grass based in Centreville, grew the PremierPRO that is now incorporated into the landscape of the World War II Memorial. The grass was grown on the 1,200-acre sod farm that he and his brother, Tom, the company’s president, run as business partners. Bill and Tom began growing PremierPRO in July 2015.
Warpinski was contacted by a contractor who he normally supplies with sod for the National Mall and was told that the Parks Service wanted to try something different at the World War II Memorial. They specifically requested a Bermuda grass, and they wanted one that was Maryland certified. With such a highly trafficked site, Warpinski knew that growth rate and wear resistance would be important considerations to provide the best match. With the memorial’s location in Washington, D.C., Warpinski also knew that cold tolerance would critical for success, and PremierPRO had demonstrated excellent cold tolerance in university tests. Warpinski was impressed with the regrowth rate of PremierPRO when he first chose to produce it, and knew it would grow quickly and allow the World War II Memorial to re-open its turf lawn to the public as quickly as possible.
“It wasn’t like anything else. It’s not like any other Bermuda grass we have,” he said. “We harvested our foundation and six weeks later it’s full again, completely covered.”
It made good business sense to choose a grass with rapid regrowth, and Warpinski noted that compared to his other grasses, PremierPRO was remarkable.
“I would probably say regrowth was 50 percent faster for vegetative Bermuda grass, and 100 percent faster than the seeded varieties of Bermuda grass,” he said.
For a sod farmer, this means more yield and higher profit. But for a national monument, it could increase safety to prevent visitors from stumbling over sod that hasn’t completely knitted its roots into the existing soil. Warpinski chose to provide the installer with Big Roll sod rather than slabs for a more seamless look. He cut the rolls a little thicker than usual to encourage strength in the grass and to speed the re-opening for public use.
In mid-October, two weeks after the PremierPRO Bermuda grass sod was installed at the WWII National Monument, Warpinski traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the grass onsite. “I was surprised that at this time of year, I could not pull that grass up. It knitted into the ground in two weeks,” Warpinski said.
For Central Sod Farms of Mar yland, the installation is an “eye-opening experience” and a culmination of their first year of growing PremierPRO. For the Warpinski family, supplying sod to the World War II Memorial is a family business coming full circle.
“It’s a great honor to supply our turf grass products to a memorial like that, and an important memorial, especially for my family. My dad served in the army in World War II, and it was a nice remembrance of him, too,” he said.
At Washington D.C.’s World War II Memorial, care is taken to maintain a site of reflection for generations to come. The choices made are carefully considered, and in every element of its design, symbolism and meaning run deep — right down to the grass roots.