Great Parks’ mission is to “preserve and protect natural resources” as well as “provide outdoor recreation.” While some might think those ideals would be at odds on a golf course, the truth is that it’s possible to blend environmentally responsible maintenance practices in our day-to-day operations. To help ensure that we hit the mark, Great Parks is in the process of Audubon certification for its oldest course, Sharon Woods Golf Course.
The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf is a highly-regarded certification for golf courses. It consists of a detailed and ongoing process that ensures golf courses are being managed in a way that creates an enjoyable experience for the golfer while simultaneously protecting the environment on and surrounding the course.
There are several components to becoming Audubon certified that Sharon Woods Golf Course is committed to accomplishing.
• Identify current and future environmental management practices.
• Map out areas of the course that highlight wildlife habitat, water resources and management zones for future planning
• Train employees regarding the importance of environmental performance and specific techniques ensuring environmental quality
• Communicate regularly to employees, customers and community members about environmental goals, issues and projects
Wildlife & Habitat Management
• Implement environmental management practices enhancing existing natural habitats and landscaping on the golf course to promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation
• Maintain landscape, trees, shrubs and flowers that are indigenous to the native plant community
• Avoid disturbing nests sites and dens until young have been dispersed
Chemical Use Reduction & Safety
• Employ best management practices and integrated pest management techniques to ensure safe storage, application and handling of chemicals and reduce actual and potential environmental contamination associated with chemical use
• Communicate, train and educate maintenance staff on proper chemical applications
• Communicate with golf professional and staff, as appropriate to coordinate and assure support for needed golf course maintenance activities
• Maintaining irrigation equipment to maximize efficiency and minimize waste, as well as employing water conserving irrigation practices
Water Quality Management
• The use of best management practices to protect the health and integrity of water resources
• Water quality monitoring to evaluate whether management practices are working
• Protect bodies of water by eliminating potential chemical runoff by raising mowing heights around bodies of water
• Identifying drainage areas
• Taking weather in to account before applying chemical
Outreach & Education
• Golfer support for the environmental management program is essential to its long term success
• A variety of education, outreach activities will assist the golf course maintenance staff in communicating with patron and community members and invite participation where appropriate
• Invite employees, patrons and community members to help with conservation projects
While Great Parks has always strived to maintain sustainable golf courses, the Audubon certification has generated a renewed excitement in our efforts. The clear goals and guidelines make sure staff from all departments are all pointed in the same direction. And the work has even led to more sustainability projects. As new member of the Monarch Joint Venture program, we’re also focusing on creating pollinator plots with native plants like milkweed. So while the Audubon work doesn’t ever really end, I’m happy to see so many immediate benefits from the process.
Scott Deland, Park Manager, Sharon Woods