As a member of Audubon International since 2008, Westview Golf Club owners and operators are committed to the principles behind the program. The Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses involves an initial site assessment, development of an environmental plan and yearly goal setting and progress review. Participants receive advice in relation to Environmental Planning, Wildlife and Habitat Management, Chemical use Reduction and Safety, Water conservation, Water Quality Management and Outreach and Education.
When asked to identify the best part of being involved in the program, Vicki Nisbett of Westview said it definitely has to be protection of habitat, and the subsequent presence of wildlife. Photos found on the Westview Audubon page represent this beautifully. With more frequent news of declining and endangered species in the news, the opportunity urban golf courses have to act as a haven for wildlife cannot be overlooked.
One example of a management practice put in place is the creation of a 3 meter naturalized buffer zone between the fairways and water courses at Westview. These vegetated areas not only improve water quality by filtering water, but they also provide shading and habitat for creatures such as turtles and birds, and for the creatures they eat. Vegetated buffers help keep water temperature habitable for creatures that survive in the water. Westview has also installed birdhouses to encourage bird life, and have left tracts of land on the property unused to provide animal habitat. Wildlife sightings on the property have included wild turkeys, ducks, bluebirds, hummingbirds, herons, swans and others, snapping turtles, deer, pollinators and frogs. Not only does this help increase species biodiversity, but the presence of these creatures is also good for business as it enhances the golfer experience.
Other steps that Westview operators have taken to enhance environmental conservation include the installation of a highly-automated irrigation system. This type of system allows precise control over watering and reduces water use significantly. In combination with manual testing to determine exactly which areas require watering, this system has a spin-off benefit of reducing disease that stems from too much moisture on the grass. To supplement this, Westview hand waters the gardens and greens to make sure water is only used when needed. Raising cut heights for maintained grass has also helped reduce disease and water use.
Increasingly, technological innovations make weed and pest control more effective and easier on the environment. Any chemical application required is carefully considered, and is only applied to targeted areas that require treatment. Fairways are not sprayed. Regular soil tests help determine the exact amount of fertilizer and chemicals required. Having operated in the same location for many years, historic collection of data about disease also helps the course operators effectively target problem areas, and prevent problems before they begin.
Having a longstanding membership with Audubon International has allowed Westview to make incremental improvements, and to keep up with new innovations and modification as guidelines and requirements have changed. For example, most recently Westview worked with Audubon to modify their golf cart wash station to ensure water quality is protected.
Westview has experimented with different plant types and native species in the garden to attract birds and pollinators, and now has a vegetable garden to provide local produce for the kitchen.
Not only do golf course operators in Ontario have a great deal of expertise to share amongst each other, they also have knowledge of value to homeowners who wish to maintain their land without over-using fertilizer and water. Next time you hit the links, be sure to ask your course operator what he or she does to enhance environmental protection. In addition to having a great day outside, you may learn something to help with your yard!