Jason Shiers, owner of Pleasant Hill Property Services, with his new JCB 48Z excavator.
Pleasant Hill Property Services, located in the foothills of western Maine, specializes in working on high-end lakefront properties in environmentally sensitive areas. Owner Jason Shiers uses Avant compact loaders, purchased through Northland JCB, to help him achieve results that make customers happy.
"In our line of work, we are primarily involved in lakefront properties where it is critical that we do no shoreline damage," Shiers said. "Our company is driven by ecological principles to do sustainable work that will do no damage to the duff or forest floor."
Much of Pleasant Hill's work is creating access paths through the forest to the lake — known to Pleasant Hill as "erosion control paths" or "access erosion control paths." In these areas, Pleasant Hill lays down an erosion control mulch, which consists of stump grindings and log flume with a bit of grit in it.
These paths are created in tight areas that often contain extreme slopes. This requires a machine with extreme traction.
"Until we had the Avant, we had given up trying to do it using anything other than manpower and a wheelbarrow, which was not particularly cost-effective and was back breaking on our employees," Shiers said. "My guys that owned [fitness trackers] said that they were doing the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest each day.
"When we demoed the Avant 635, we were amazed at its ability to climb, its turning radius and with the telescoping front end it was able to remove the load from the back of the truck without having anyone assist from inside the truck."
With the Avant, Pleasant Hill is able to create 48-in. wide pathways which, within days of being laid, look like they have been there forever, Shiers added.
"Right now, lakefront property owners are receiving grants to build these types of pathways and the demand for them is very high. The Avant is allowing us to keep up with that demand."
Pleasant Hill recently purchased an Avant model 760i with a cab and air conditioning, a smaller Avant 635, which does not have a cab, and a wide variety of attachments from Northland JCB.
According to Shiers, the attachments are extremely well made and designed to handle the work at hand.
"My wife and daughter can easily put on the front mounting mower, which they prefer to use versus our old belly mower because they can see exactly where they are mowing and when they are finished, with no assistance, they can disconnect and hook up to a loader and go clean the horse barn.
"Both of our two Avant machines can run all of our attachments with the exception of the 760I and the backhoe. The cab prevents the 760I from being used as a backhoe."
Shiers has two things that most impress him about the Avant loaders: ease of use and the feel of the machine.
"The mechanical attachments are all quick release; you simply lift two levers, pull up to the attachment, lift it and you're ready to go to work. It is a one-person operation, and anyone can do it. The Avant has a hydraulic coupling system that any eight-year old could use. It is a one-person operation that can be done from the seat of the cab with the turn of a lever.
"I know what I like in the feel of a machine that I am operating. I want to feel balance, I want to feel small and I want to feel powerful, and the Avant puts all of that together and adds comfortable to the equation," Shiers said.
Working With Northland JCB
In addition to the Avant loaders, Pleasant Hill also purchased a JCB 48Z excavator from Northland.
"The JCB is our second excavator and I had developed a good relationship with Toby Reynolds, our sales rep at Northland JCB. Tony has been very helpful in helping us figure out how to meet the demands of equipment with a goal of operating two sites simultaneously at all times.
"Initially, we demoed a JCB model 55Z and we were pleased with everything that we saw but, in the end, we decided that the JCB model 48Z better fit our sizing needs. We were looking for very smooth controls, yet great power, and we needed a wide tracked machine to do a minimal amount of damage to soil surface."
The smooth operation is particularly important to the company.
"In our type of work, we often have an individual at the end of the stick guiding a rock or stone for precision placement. The operator must have 100 percent confidence in what the response of the controls are going to be when positioning that rock or the end results could be very dangerous."
At the end of the day, Shiers is completely satisfied with Northland JCB and Reynolds.
"We have been using Northland JCB and Toby Reynolds for some time now and on support after the sale we are extremely pleased. We have only had one equipment failure and Northland's response time was incredible. The technician knew exactly what he was doing and while he was here, he took the time to give the machine a quick tune up and left it running as good as new. Anytime we need anything, Toby is always very quick to respond."
Operating Under Difficult Circumstances
As property managers, Pleasant Hill was called upon to take care of property for out-of-state owners who could not travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were under quite a strain because of a number of our employees are single parents and with schools not being opened, could not work. So, we had an increased work demand and a decreased number of laborers available.
"Our philosophy has been that there is no such thing as a landscaping emergency, and we have made every effort to put the needs of our employees first. However, our business was deemed essential and we have been kept very busy."
Fortunately for Pleasant Hill, at the end of 2019 it purchased all of the materials that it would need for the 2020 season, so the company was not affected by the shortage of landscape materials that ensued.
About Pleasant Hill Property Services
Before opening Pleasant Hill, Owner Jason Shiers worked as a school teacher from September to June and a landscaper for a local nursery during the summers. Shortly after he left teaching to pursue landscaping full time, a tornado hit the area, causing significant damage to the lakefront properties.
"We were able to stay very busy doing cleanup work. Property owners were impressed enough, that what started out as doing cleanup work turned in to steady customers doing property management and landscape work. Our timing seemed to be just perfect.
"Generationally, an older group of property owners were turning these homes over to a new generation of out-of-state owners who were looking for property managers that they could rely on to take care of any aspect of their home that might need attention during the majority of the year when they are not using the property, and create a perfect outdoor living space for them to enjoy when they are in the area. We diversified our product offerings to meet those needs."
Mother Nature also has done her part in helping the company grow.
"With climate change, tremendous storms have been hitting this area, which create a tremendous amount of erosion damage. We have been in high demand in creating drainage control systems to protect homeowners' investments and landscaping. We enhance people's outdoor living experience while protecting their property from natural damages and, at the same time, protecting the ecology of the lake.
"We endeavor to do this in the right way. We listen very carefully to the state code enforcement officials and find out what they are trying to accomplish and go out of our way to work with them not around them. At the same time, we try to enhance the outdoor living experience for our client."
Founded in 2008, Pleasant Hill is certified by the Department of Environmental Protection in Erosion & Sedimentation Control Practices to enable it to design and properly install outdoor living projects within 75 ft. of a lake, river or pond. For more information, call 207/739-0675 or visit www.pleasanthillpropertyservices.com.
For more information on Avant compact loaders, visit avanttecno.com. CEG